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August 29, 2008

Seven out athletes win medals in Beijing

Diver Matthew Mitcham is first out man to win gold--but NBC viewers wouldn’t know

Beijing--Of 11 out athletes at the 2008 Summer Olympics, seven took medals and one made history.

Linda Bresonik of Germany took a bronze medal for soccer, while Lauren Lappin and Vicky Galindo nabbed silver medals with the United States women’s softball team.

Natasha Kai of the U.S. brought home gold in soccer, while Gro Hammerseng and Katya Nyberg, who are a couple, brought gold medals home to Norway in handball.

The big gay story of the Olympics, however, was the 10meter platform diving by Matthew Mitcham of Australia, who garnered four perfect 10s on his last dive to shoot ahead of his Chinese competitor Zhou Luxin, denying a Chinese sweep of diving gold.

Mitcham is now the first openly gay man to win a gold medal at the Olympics.

Greg Louganis, a U.S. diver who won gold in the 1984 and 1988 Olympics, came out in 1994.

Mitcham, however, came out in May before going into the competitions, becoming an icon of Australia’s LGBT community. Divers there carry prestige similar to basketball players in the United States.

Mitcham, citing personal problems including a battle with depression, retired from diving two years ago, but the 20-year-old returned to the sport a few months afterwards.

After performing poorly in the 3meter springboard event in Beijing, Mitcham said that he looked at what he had done wrong, and simply changed everything.

Along with his medal came controversy.

TV viewers in Australia and Europe saw an extended interview in the NBC feed with Mitcham, his mother and his partner Lachlan Fletcher.

Viewers in America, however, saw none of the interview, leading to cries of homophobia directed at NBC.

The network, for its part, told website AfterElton.com, “It’s not possible to cover the entire personal story of every athlete regarding their performance. It’s just not possible to single out coverage.”

Spokesman Greg Hughes noted that he could point to 500 athletes whose personal lives were not mentioned, and who were not interviewed on the American coverage.

AfterElton and other critics, like OutSports.com, noted that NBC did cover personal stories of many athletes, including one heterosexual love triangle.

Hughes also said that the network seldom mentions athletes’ sexual orientations, but dodged when it was noted that the network does precisely that by showing spouses and girlfriends or boyfriends of other athletes.

Critics also said that the only non-Chinese gold medal diver in the 2008 Olympics, as well as the only openly gay male athlete at the Games, should have had his interview broadcast in the U.S. The NBC website notes the rarity of openly gay men in Olympic sports.

NBC had the footage available--they provided all of the video for worldwide use, including the Mitcham interview, which showed him alternately kissing his mother and Fletcher. Earlier, after the medal ceremony, Australian and European viewers also saw him climb into the stands to hug his partner.

Fletcher was able to attend the Olympics because of help from the Johnson & Johnson Athlete Family Support Program, since was not able to afford airfare and accommodations on his own.

This material is copyrighted by the Gay People’s Chronicle. Permission is given only to repost the headline, byline, and one or two paragraphs, with the full name of the Gay People’s Chronicle and a link to the full article on our website. Reproduction of the entire article is prohibited without specific written permission.

 


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