Aquatic athletes are as revered in Australia as NFL stars are in the United States, so the news that Matthew Mitcham is gay made headlines throughout Australia. It was The Sydney Morning Herald that broke the story; in the course of profiling the diver as part of its Olympics coverage, a reporter from the paper asked Mitcham whom he lived with.
“I hadn’t planned to do it at all,” Mitcham says today. “It was just a question” — which he answered by saying he lived with his partner of two years, Lachlan — “and it went from there.”
One might think that the fuss would have bothered his fellow divers, but they’re nonchalant about his sexual orientation. “They don’t seem to mind that I’m a big homo,” says Mitcham, who trains six hours a day at the New South Wales Institute of Sport, a facility for elite athletes in 31 sports at Sydney’s Olympic Park. “I make jokes about it all the time. I haven’t made an issue of it, so they just reciprocate that attitude.” Plus, he says, because of its artistry and grace, diving is “such an easy sport to be out in — much easier than football, where you have to be rugged and strong and masculine.”
Mitcham is so focused on Beijing that he hasn’t been out with friends for more than a year and a half. And now that he’s won his ticket to China, he’ll be cheered poolside by Lachlan, courtesy of a $5,000 travel grant from Johnson & Johnson’s Athlete Family Support Program (no, there wasn’t an outcry, as you might expect in the States). His mom may be there too, thanks to some Sydney gay men and lesbians who offered to cover her expenses. “I’m very proud to be part of the gay community,” he says.
Well done Matthew! I am so pleased that in Australia Johnson and Johnson supported Matthew (without any drama) and so proud of Sydneys’ Gay and Lesbian community for sending over mum too! I am supposed to be supporting England but with my dual nationality, I will be supporting you mate.