Olympic diving champion Matthew Mitcham has spoken about his difficult journey of coming to terms with his sexuality and battling with internalised homophobia and shame that deterred him from coming out.

Mitcham, who in 2008 became the first openly gay athlete to secure an Olympic gold medal, shared that he had known he was gay since he was five years old.

During the emotionally charged episode of SAS Australia, Mitcham disclosed that he once tried to condition himself out of being gay by using a rubber band. “Every time I had a thought that was gay, I’d snap the band against my wrist in an attempt to associate the thought with pain,” he said.


Mitcham also opened up about other challenges he has faced, including severe childhood trauma that led him to the brink of suicide and substance abuse issues that surfaced after his Olympic victory. Nonetheless, he has been sober for seven years now.

After the episode aired, viewers took to social media platforms, expressing overwhelming support for Mitcham. Responding to the flood of encouraging messages, Mitcham posted a heartfelt thank-you on Instagram, saying, “I hope my story can provide strength, experience, and hope to anyone else who is struggling.”

Previously, in a 2021 interview with BBC Sport, Mitcham had admitted that the fear of living as his authentic self had nearly caused him to abandon his diving career. “Feeling like I had deceived people made me feel isolated,” he noted.

However, things turned around when Mitcham found a supportive community in Brisbane’s LGBTQ+ scene, which helped him regain his self-confidence and rekindle his passion for diving. Mitcham unintentionally came out publicly in a pre-Olympics interview, mentioning that he lived with his boyfriend. Despite initial fears of public reaction, the response was overwhelmingly positive.

The diver’s transparency gained him a massive global following and played a part in his taking home the gold for Australia in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. “Others may win gold medals, and records are made to be broken, but I’ll always have the honour of being the first openly gay male Olympic champion,” he concluded.

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