Matthew Mitcham, the Australian diver who won an Olympic gold medal in 2008 as an openly gay athlete, has announced his retirement from diving.
It's official: I have decided to finally retire after a looooooooong but very rewarding diving career. So much gratitude to my long suffering partner Lachlan, Chava, NSWIS, DA, family, friends and all you friends I haven't had the pleasure of meeting yet! I remember the support I got when I came out before my Olympic debut in 2008 and it helped me to keep sharing my story just as candidly. So, it's Peace Out to my diving career and a big Heeeeeeey to the rest of my media and entertainment and everything else career! Thank you to everyone for sharing in my [dirty word]... #journey hahaha Xx
In a statement via the Australian Olympic Committee, Mitcham said: "I don't feel there is anything unfinished with my diving career and I have goals in other areas now that require the same commitment that I have given to sport over all these years.
"I have achieved everything I hoped for, including the big three of Olympic gold in 2008, world number one in 2010, and Commonwealth gold in 2014."
Mitcham, who will turn 28 on March 2, said he has planned on retiring in 2014 but was diving well enough that he decided to stick it out until the Rio Summer Games. But injuries and his desire to pursue a career in the media and entertainment made his decision today the right thing to do. He told ABC in Australia:
"The older you get you don't tend to recover from injuries, you just accumulate them and I was doing pretty well physically. But again, there wasn't enough of an incentive for me in diving to push through all the way to Rio when I've been given so many wonderful opportunities outside of diving, outside the pool that I'm really passionate about."
There is only one goal that Mitcham never accomplished: He said that if he won gold at the 2012 Olympics he would dive naked off the 10-meter platform. Alas, that great sports moment never occurred.
Mitcham is a hero in the history of LGBT people in sports. He came out publicly in May 2008 and competed in the 2008 Beijing Olympics as an openly gay man with his partner Lachlan cheering him in the stands. When he won the gold medal in a shocking upset, the web traffic was so huge that it crashed the Outsports servers.
He has been a consistent voice championing LGBT rights and have been very accessible and willing to help, even after achieving fame. As he told ABC: "I've had lots of messages like that which is really humbling. Not just from younger people but also older people ... who have been keeping a deep dark secret for their entire lives, and just me being able to be who I was and compete at an Olympics as an out-and-proud athlete really inspired them to really be their authentic self."
Bravo to Mitcham on his retirement and for being a tremendous role model for LGBT people everywhere. I have no doubt he will be a success in whatever he does going forward.