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August 24, 2008


In one of the most dramatic upsets in Olympic history, gay Australian Diver Matthew Mitcham snatches the Gold Medal out of the hands of China's top diver.

Matthew, who came out to the world before the Olympics (see my Aug. 3rd Posting), was cut from the 3 meter finals earlier in the week because of a 16th place finish in the semifinals. Of course he was devastated by such a poor showing but with a steel-willed determination and a never-say-die attitude, he narrowed his focus and concentrated on the 10 meter platform competition.

Being an Olympic addict myself, my partner and I were both pretty much glued to the TV during the swimming and diving competitions. After being amazed by Michael Phelps' astonishing accomplishments, we thought we had seen the end of dramatic, mind-boggling finishes. We were wrong.

During the semifinals on Friday (our time), Matthew seesawed back and forth in the standings but after his final dive, he ended up in 2nd place. When NBC turned to cover the finals on Saturday, they picked-up the action midway through and Matthew's name wasn't even visible on the board. Peter and I looked at each other in amazement. What happened? Where is he?

When he finally did appear on the platform, the commentator explained about an earlier missed dive. He had 3 dives left and his next two propelled him back into 2nd place again. But he was trailing China’s Zhou Luxin by more than 30 points going into the last dive and even he didn't think he had a chance of overtaking him. He just wanted to do the best dive he could and hold onto the Silver.

Well - the Olympics is filled with dreams and impossible expectations. Zhou Luxin's final dive was just before Matthew's and all he had to do was make a "good" dive to cinch the gold. But after he dove, audible gasps swept through the arena. He had over rotated and just missed his entry, causing a noticeable splash. His score was low but still left him comfortably in first place. The stage was set.

The pressure Matthew had to have felt standing on the very edge of the platform would have unhinged most people. But he was rock-solid. He left the platform and executed one of the most perfect dives of the competition and slipped into the water without any splash whatsoever! The judges agreed and awarded him the highest scoring dive in the history of the Olympics. With four perfect 10's, he ended with an amazing 112.10. This gave him just enough to edge-out Zhou Luxin by 537.95 to 533.15.

Matthew's incredible achievement reminded me of Greg Louganis' last performance in the 1988 Seoul Olympics. During the preliminary rounds, while performing a reverse 2 1/2 pike he hit his head and suffered a concussion. Despite his injury, he completed the preliminaries and went on to win the gold medal. Greg was, and still is, considered the best diver in Olympic history. But his status may now have some serious competition in Matthew Mitcham. For those of you who don't know, Greg came out in 1994 and in his autobiography published in 1995 entitled Breaking the Surface (still available at Amazon.com), he revealed that he was HIV positive and he's still doing great today.

In addition to being the first openly gay male athlete to compete in the Olympics, Matthew also became Australia’s first male Olympic gold medallist in diving since 1924.

After it was all over and he had the gold medal in his hands, Matthew said, “It’s going to take a while to sink in. My cheeks hurt from smiling. My face hurts from the chlorine. My legs are sore from jumping up and down. I’m in pain and I’m tired. But I’m so happy.”

Whoever said that good guys finish last never watched the Olympics. Congratulations Matthew. We're all very, very proud of you!