One of the many records to tumble at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro is the number of openly gay athletes competing – at least 49.
And multi gold medal winning diver Greg Louganis gives all the credit to Australian diver Matthew Mitcham.
When Mitcham won gold in the 10 metre platform at Beijing in 2008, after receiving the highest single-dive score in Olympic history, he was the one and only openly gay athlete at those Games.
“I really kind of tip my hat to Matthew Mitcham, because he really started the whole thing and he was still competing,” Louganis told The Advocate.
“And the way that he explained it was he felt he couldn’t compete on that high a level only sharing a part of himself.
“And I admire that so much. I thought that wonderful. And when he won the gold in Beijing, it was like through the roof.”
Louganis, generally regarded as the greatest diver of all time, didn’t come out until 1994, long after his glittering career was over.
“I was concerned about coming out because I didn’t want it to be about the gay athlete, the gay diver – that was my concern because the media has a tendency of pushing a headline and labelling,” he said.
“It’s individual, everyone is on their own journey … they really have to follow their own path.”
Louganis won silver aged 16 at his first Olympics in Montreal in 1976 before winning dual gold medals at both Los Angeles in 1984 and Seoul in 1988.
When asked what advice he would give to other athletes struggling with coming out, Louganis said: “I think you’ll find more support than you think.”
Made aware of Louganis’ comments, Mitcham tweeted in response: “It helped that my idol was gay @greglouganis.”