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Olympic diver is openly gay

bobandmattmitcham211.jpgAug. 23, 2008 flash: Matthew Mitcham wins the Olympic gold medal in the 10-meter platform.

(For updates on Mitcham and more news and photos, including video of Mitcham and his partner Lachlan in Beijing, check our Mitcham articles on our Olympics blog.)

Australian diver Matthew Mitcham, 20, is going to Beijing to compete in the Summer Olympics and he is going as an openly gay man. Mitcham revealed his sexuality in an interview with the Sydney Morning Herald.

Months out from the Games, Mitcham has taken the courageous step of revealing his sexuality to the media for the first time, in an exclusive interview with the Herald. He has also applied for a grant through a Johnson & Johnson Athlete Family Support Program to have [his boyfriend] Lachlan near him in Beijing.

We can't afford for Lachlan to go at the moment," Mitcham said. "But Johnson & Johnson offer grants to go to Beijing and I've nominated Lachlan as the support person I want to go."

Mitcham is very talented and has a serious shot at a medal in the 10-meter platform. He won the USA Diving Grand Prix in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., on May 11. He is a former trampoline athlete with a silver piercing in his tongue and a reputation as a free spirit (to make money he would dive from 42 feet up for crowds). It all came together in Ft. Lauderdale.

His performance was astonishing. Mitcham beat two top Chinese divers who will challenge him for gold. When he saw his four perfect 10s he whooped and leaped on the pool deck. Finally, the man who had battled anxiety and depression as a teenager, taking medication and seeing psychologists, had arrived on the world stage. And it proved the time he spent away from the sport last year had been worth it. Mitcham's premature retirement had been a chaotic and unusual time when he "partied" and lived without regimen.

Mitcham’s story reads like that of a struggling young man who has put his life together with the help of athletics. I know whom I’ll be rooting for in Beijing.

Having a gay Olympic diver is not new, but having an out one is not common. Multi-gold medalist Greg Louganis came out after his Olympic career ended in 1988. American David Pilcher competed while openly gay at Syndey in 2000. In the 2004 Athens Games, Outsports was able to document 11 openly gay and lesbian athletes. –Jim Buzinski

Related: See the list of out Olympians in Beijing.)

Hat tip to a reader for alerting us to this story.