Anton Down-Jenkins made some history in May by becoming the first diver from New Zealand to qualify for the Olympics since 1984. And he has done it while being out and proud to identify as LGBTQ.
“I never felt the need to ‘come out’. I’ve never felt the need to explicitly tell people ‘I’m gay.’ I’m very fortunate because I know that’s not the reality for a lot of people,” Down-Jenkins told the New Zealand website Stuff.
“I grew up having that LGBTQI+ representation in sport. There’s [British diver] Tom Daley who is a multi-Olympic medalist, you have [Australian diver] Matthew Mitcham who won gold in Beijing [and was the first openly gay athlete to win Olympic gold].
“They definitely helped pave the way for LGBTQI+ representation in our sport,” he said.
Down-Jenkins, 21, qualified for the Games in the 3-meter springboard during a Diving World Cup Olympic qualifier in Japan in early May. He will compete in Tokyo as the first diver from New Zealand in 37 years.
Down-Jenkins dives for the University of North Carolina and made the Games despite testing positive for Covid-19, the effects of which set back his training 2 1⁄2 months, he said. He’s now fully vaccinated and excited about competing.
What’s cool is that Down-Jenkins is very vocal about representing LGBTQ athletes, knowing many of them do not feel as comfortable as him in being out.
“There isn’t enough LGBTQI+ representation in the [sport] media, which is why I felt the need to bring it forward and to publicly announce that I am a member of the LGBTQI+ community, I want to be that representation. I want people to see that I’m out here,” he said.
“I’m thriving. I’m competing at the highest level of sport that you can and there just needs to be more of it. For sport to be a safe place there needs to be more representation in the media. It needs to become more normalized.”
You can follow Down-Jenkins on Instagram.