Part of Outsports’ series on our 100 most important moments in gay sports history.
Diving, 2008. You've seen the likes of it in big Hollywood movies, but you've rarely seen it in real life. The hopes of gay fans around the world hung on one single dive. In the 10m finals in Beijing, Matthew Mitcham needed a near-perfect score in his sixth and final dive to win Olympic gold. It was virtually impossible. The Chinese had swept through the diving events at these Games and were again in complete control. The only openly gay male athlete at the 2008 Olympics would have to hope for silver.
Instead, Mitcham shocked the world. He nailed a dive that gave him a score of 112.10, the highest single-dive score in Olympic history. Minutes later he was standing poolside, after all the dives had been completed, and his name was atop the scoreboard. Mitcham had won Olympic gold in shocking fashion.
Watching the hard-to-find video from French TV of those historic couple minutes (see below), you can see the shock in Mitcham's face and ensuing tears as he realized what he'd just done. The victory was so surprising that Mitcham had planned a long trip to Europe with his boyfriend shortly after the Games, not thinking there'd be much demand for him back home. But in the days and weeks that followed, Mitcham became the most sought-after gay man in the world.
Meanwhile, many fans were left wondering why NBC failed to mention that Mitcham is gay in their broadcast. While some dismissed it as "not important," the fact that the only openly gay Olympian at the Games pulled off possibly the most shocking upset at the Olympics was in fact news. And many agreed. From Yahoo sports:
NBC did not mention Mitcham’s orientation, nor did they show his family and partner who were in the stands. NBC has made athletes’ significant others a part of the coverage in the past, choosing to spotlight track athlete Sanya Richards’ fiancee, a love triangle between French and Italian swimmers and Kerri Walsh’s wedding ring debacle.
Still, it was a moment of incredible pride for the entire LGBT community. It's another of those moments that I will always remember where I was: In my hotel room in Washington DC waiting to head down to the NLGJA convention, hitting "refresh" on my computer screen (NBC aired the competition later that day). When the final result came up, I thought for a moment that one of the Chinese divers hadn't yet completed his dives. Realizing that wasn't the case, I launched into a frenzy of writing making Outsports one of the first news outlets to report the unbelievable comeback, upsetting some of our readers (sorry) by revealing the incredible result. Still, news of the incredible victory flooded the internet and many more people got to watch the event because of it.
Mitcham wasn't shy about his sexual orientation following his gold-medal performance, thanking his boyfriend Lachlan Fletcher repeatedly. He went on to work with various gay groups including the Gay Games in 2010.
But for many, nothing will be as rich as that day the only openly gay Olympian shocked the world. It was one of the highest-trafficked days in the history of Outsports, and Mitcham continues to be a big draw wherever he goes.
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