Out Australian diver Matthew Mitcham, with whom The Advocate has spoken for cover stories both prior to and following his gold medal win at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, just secured his first major worldwide victory since that Olympic triumph. Receiving perfect 10s across the board on a reverse 3½ tuck with a new personal best of 562.80 combined points, Mitcham followed his recent gold medal win at the Canada Cup with a gold in the 10-meter platform at the 2010 FINA Diving World Cup, which was held June 2–6 in Changzhou, China. Already back in Sydney to finish his university exams before training starts for October’s Commonwealth Games in India, the 22-year-old Funky Trunks ambassador reconnected with The Advocate via email to discuss his latest victory and a long life of leisure beyond the diving board.
The Advocate: When most people hear about the World Cup, they probably think of soccer before diving. For those of us not in aquatic circles, talk to me about the significance of World Cup and how important it was for you to place there.
Matthew Mitcham: There is a benchmark event at the end of the competition season every year; on even years it’s FINA Diving World Cup, odd years it’s FINA World Championships — swimming, water polo, diving, synchronized swimming, and open water swimming. The results from these benchmark events are weighted the most heavily when calculating overall world ranking each year, they qualify you for the next year’s World Series Tour — only top eight in the world are invited — and training grants for the following year are dependent on your success at these events. So yes, they’re extremely important!
Then it’s a good thing you got the gold. Did you have that little teen rascal Tom Daley to worry about in China?
Unfortunately, Tom Daley didn’t come to World Cup this year. He’s working on increasing the difficulty of his dives, which is an unusual thing to miss a benchmark event for. But then again, it’s not an unintelligent decision because it shows that his priorities are well and truly the London Games.
You’ve graced the cover of The Advocate twice in the past two years. As an Australian athlete, what does the attention and support from the gay media in America mean to you?
Twice, I know! I'm very honored. And I’m not sure I'd ever have done so well if it hadn't been for the support all you guys have given me.
There was a lot of talk about how NBC’s coverage didn’t highlight your sexuality in Bejing — a controversy that you told The Advocate didn’t faze you a bit. You also said, “I just want to be known as the Australian diver who did really well at the Olympics. It’s everybody else who thinks it’s special when homosexuality and elite sport go together.” So now that the media is focusing more and more on your sexuality, do you ever feel like your personal life threatens to overshadow your diving talent and the sport at hand?
The media has to report on whatever is new and interesting — it’s its raison d'être. I’m lucky that whenever I’m not out there winning everything possible, the media still finds me interesting enough to write about me. Besides, there are far worse things to be seen as than gay. In fact, I can't think of many better!
Australian footballer Jason Akermanis very recently went on record to say that gay athletes should stay in the closet. What are your thoughts on his controversial statements?
Everyone was of the same opinion about his comments: Australians, foreigners, heteros, and homos alike. Even his football club suspended him for two weeks because they wanted to assure everyone that they don’t hold the same opinion as Akermanis. Bravo to them, I say.
There’s been a lot of debate and discussion about whether or not your sexuality has cost you sponsorships and endorsement deals. Is this something that worries you as much as it seems to concern the gay media?
There were moments when I wondered if I had made a poor choice or jeopardized opportunities, but when I read messages from lovely men and women from all over, I feel ridiculous for ever doubting myself. And as long as I have enough money to pay my bills and focus on my diving job, I'm happy. I never expected to make money from the sport anyway, and that’s why I’m chipping away at a degree while I’m training. Then when I graduate, I can get a good job, work really hard for 10 years, and live the rest of my life as a man of leisure! Diving is not a high-profile sport, so hopefully the better I do, the more interest the general public will have, and the more sponsorship dollars it will attract.