From Down Under comes news that Olympics diving goldist Matt Mitcham has added yet another major award to his fistful of medals. The coveted Sports Performer of the Year award came to him the other night in Melbourne. Mitcham was one of eight outstanding athletes who were nominated for the 2008 award, including triathlete Emma Snowsill, swimmer Stephanie Rice and pole vaulter Steve Hooker. The short list was put together by a panel of judges, but readers of the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age were the ones who did the final voting, as per the post-millennial trend of letting the public decide which "dancing stars" win the disco ball.
Their popular vote shows how much respect and affection Mitcham stirred up in Australia, not only with his athletic performance but his courage in coming out and the appeal of his personality.
Mitcham's win was announced at a red-carpet event in Crown Casino in Melbourne. The award includes a $50,000 check from Colonial First State, sponsor of the awards. In 2007 the award was given for the first time, and went to Australian cyclist Cadel Evans, who finished second in the Tour de France. In other categories, U.S. swimmer Michael Phelps took International Performer of the Year.