Tom Daley and Qiu Bo watch out, Australian Mitcham is a big gay gold hope in the individual 10m dive at the London Olympics
Four years ago, gay Australian Matthew Mitcham shocked the world when he won gold on the 10m diving platform in the Beijing Olympics.
Receiving the highest score for a single dive in Olympic history at the time, Mitcham not only dispelled myths about gay men in sport but set the bar higher for every other athlete.
The Chinese were heavily favored in the 2008 event, and Mitcham was behind Zhou Luxin by about 35 points going into the final dive.
But then Mitcham hit a score of 112.10 on his sixth and final dive to win by just over three points.
‘It’s absolutely surreal. I never thought that this would be possible,’ Mitcham said.
The diver had spoken publicly about his sexuality to the Sydney Morning Herald as part of their pre-games profile of Olympic profiles.
Only 20, he shared his battles with depression that had seen him take a break from the sport in his teenage years after physical and emotional burnout.
He said: ‘It was a break for me to explore myself and get familiar with who I really was and to be happy with who I really was. Just being a happier person really radiates into other areas of your life.’
And now he is back, four years later at London 2012, hoping to do it all over again.
As you would expect, the man has tough competition.
Last year at the World Championships, the Chinese swept the competition winning all eight gold diving medals.
Unbeaten individually for two years, Qiu Bo is the white-hot favorite to come top in the individual diving.
In the 2011 FINA Diving World Series – Beijing, Bo received no fewer than 25 perfect 10s to score a 609.20 in the 10m event.
Although it was a historic moment, Bo was characteristically quick to point out his ‘407C [dive] was not very good’.
The Chinese diver says the greatest pressure will not come from the competition, but from him.
He said: ‘The biggest challenge is from myself to beat myself. The aim is to win everything.
‘I enjoy the pressure of being number one. That is the pressure that moves me to get stronger and stronger.’
British hope Tom Daley has referred to Bo as being ‘like a robot’, but the teenage heartthrob has also won his share of gold medals.
In the 2009 FINA World Aquatics Championships, held in Rome, Daley unexpectedly won the individual platform title beating stiff competition from the Chinese.
Hugely experienced beyond his 18 years, Daley has also taken home the gold in the 10m individual platform competition in the Qingdao FINA World Diving event and 2010 Commonwealth Games.
The Briton said: ‘Normally in diving, silver is gold, because the Chinese dominate everything, but you never know what can happen in an Olympic Games.’
But Daley has the added pressure of having to perform well at home in London, which can be both a blessing and a curse.
‘Poor Tom, he’s got the pressure of being at a home games,’ Mitcham has said.
After coming just shy of the medals in the synchronized diving so far, Daley will be hoping to make a splash in the individual.
When the men get up on the platform on 10 to 11 August, the three top divers could be toppled by other hopes.
American David Boudia could be a contender after coming second behind Bo in a 2011 Shanghai event and Russian Victor Minibaev could win after taking silver in the European Championships.
Mitcham tore a stomach muscle after Beijing which kept him out of the game for nine months. Now he says he’s happy to go into the London Olympics without the pressure of being the favorite.
He said: ‘I feel like the underdog again in London.
‘I’ve had a few injuries that have kept me from my best but it is good to go in without all that pressure.
‘No one expects me to win and I feel more comfortable when I am in that position. I believe I can win gold again in London. I’ve done it before and know what it takes.’
The Australian is hoping to tuck, pike and rip his way to success, and gays all over the world are wishing him the best of luck.
Take a look at Mitcham’s diving here: