By Linda Robertson, firstname.lastname@example.org
With each leap, somersault and twist Australia’s Matthew Mitcham felt the tugs in his belly, even letting out an involuntary midair cry during a dive in the semifinal round. He scratched out of Sunday’s platform final at the AT&T USA Diving Grand Prix at the Fort Lauderdale Aquatic Complex.
Mitcham became one of the sensations of the 2008 Beijing Olympics when he prevented Chinese divers from sweeping the gold medals with his surprise victory in the 10-meter tower. On Sunday, he couldn’t upstage China’s Liang Huo and Bo Qiu, who finished one-two. He had to watch from the stands.
Mitcham attributes the abdominal injury, as well as two stress fractures in his lower spine, to excessive diving. Combine that with a heavy schedule of linguistics classes at Sydney University and numerous appearances. Fatigue and injuries followed.
“It’s been a packed year,” he said. “I overdid it and my body broke.”
Mitcham is in demand. He’s a star in an island nation that loves its aquatic heroes. He is celebrated not only for his stunning Olympic victory but also for his candor in coming out as a gay athlete, a rarity in macho sports culture.
Mitcham has been gratified to see several European athletes come out, including British rugby player Gareth Thomas, British cricketer Steven Davies and Swedish soccer player Anton Hysen.
Hysen is receiving support from his teammates, a positive change compared to the plight of Justin Fashanu, the first high-level pro soccer player to reveal he was gay. England’s Fashanu was shunned and berated and committed suicide in 1998.