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Mitcham gets a stamp but no sponsors yet

Two weeks after shocking the diving world by winning the gold medal in Olympic platform diving, Australian Matthew Mitcham has been honored with a stamp but has yet to secure a sponsorship deal, though one is rumored.

Mitcham, as is every Aussie gold medal winner, will receive $17,400 for allowing use of his image on Olympic stamps issued by Australia Post. Mitcham, 20, will also earn another $17,400 in a bonus paid by Adidas.

So far, though, Mitcham, who won the gold medal with a dazzling final dive Aug. 23, has yet to get the kind of sponsorship deals that have gone to Australian athletes like swimmer Stephanie Rice. As the Sydney Morning Herald reports:

[Australian broadcaster] Channel Seven's deal with Rice is worth $700,000 [$567,000 U.S.] alone. While some would argue a case of Rice-induced indigestion resulting from the swimmer's overexposure, corporate demand for Mitcham has not caught up with his enormous popularity and is in danger of flatlining for the diver.

Just like Rice, Mitcham looks like a sponsor's dream: an Olympic gold medal, undeniably articulate and good looking.

Oh, and he's openly gay. ... Rice's manager Chris White argued sexuality would not hold Mitcham's earnings potential back. "It's about consistency of performance and personality. Swimming is a sport with huge interest in Australia and sponsors are attracted to it."

The paper also reports on a rumor that Mitcham turned down $25,000 for a "tell-all" offer from the gossip magazine "Woman's Day." (whose recent issue blared the headline: "Stephanie Rice: The Truth About Me and Michael Phelps."

In addition, the Gold Coast website Down Under had this tidbit Friday:

A whisper is circulating that the man who stunned the world by winning Olympic gold for diving in the 10-meter platform, Matthew Mitcham, is to sign with a national sponsor.

What's the big deal you ask about an Olympic gold medalist receiving national sponsorship?
Well, the tag is that young Matthew is the first openly gay male to receive such an offer from a big Australian corporation.

Mitcham has said nothing about any of this, since the Morning Herald reports that he is vacationing in France with his partner, Lachlan Fletcher, and won't be back until next month. I have yet to see a single interview with Mitcham since the Games ended and Outsports is among those who have a request in with his publicist.

It is way too early to make a judgment yet about whether Mitcham being open about his sexuality will have a negative impact on his endorsement potential. He has by choice taken himself out of the limelight for some down time, and his manager did not return repeated phone calls from the Morning Herald (not a smart thing for a manager to do if he wants to keep his client in the news).

It's also possible that Mitcham is not actively interested in endorsements, though his mom did tell the Morning Herald previously that one reason for some hesitancy about coming out was that "He was worried about that factor of sponsorship ... But I think everybody has caught up now."

The bottom line is that Australia has a gold medal winner with a compelling story and charismatic personality, who should be a sponsor's dream. It is an interesting test case for any other athlete thinking about publicly coming out.

Update: A day after I posted this article, the Sydney Morning Herald reported that there is budding interest in Mitcham:

Contrary to reports at the weekend, sponsors are lining up to secure the flaxen-haired diver. ... So, too, are sports agents, who are keen to snap him up.

Related: Outsports' Mitcham archive