Exactly seven years ago, on 5 March 2011, I briefly met Matthew Mitcham. This is the story of what happened.
During four weeks in February and March 2011 I toured Australia. I documented this tour on a blog To Australia. It has been gathering digital dust and hits since. Particularly the post ‘Australian Customs: biscuits and chocolate are OK‘ is still very popular.
Sydney was the last major stop before returning to Melbourne and home. I couldn’t pass the opportunity to attend Sydney Mardi Gras, a world famous gay pride. The parade in Oxford Street is iconic and every year thousands of LGBT’s party at the Hordern Pavilion. Kesha, Rihanna and Katy Perry were rumoured to perform that year. We got Wynter Gordon and Alexis Jordan.
But that’s after I met thé diver.
Who is Matthew Mitcham?
Matthew Mitcham OAM was born on 2 March 1988 in Brisbane. He is the 2008 Olympic diving champion in the 10 m platform, having received the highest single-dive score in Olympic history. He was the first openly gay athlete to win an Olympic gold medal.
Mitcham came out as gay before the Beijing Olympic Games in China. Ten years ago that was huge news. An athlete coming-out at the beginning of his career and before going to a country which is not known to be gay friendly. Just for that Matthew is quite a hero. Forget 2018. 2008 was different.
Although I already wrote for ZiZo, the magazine didn’t have a website yet. So I didn’t dare to ask his management for an interview as I didn’t have a medium to post it on. But I rued that missed opportunity badly so I promised myself to talk to him if I got the chance.
At the end of the parade I saw Matthew on a podium. I didn’t hesitate. I would never see him again. I ran to his location and screamed “Matthew, please can I get a photo?” Insert think French / Flemish accent. A photo! I don’t think the word ‘selfie’ had been invented yet. I also used my compact camera, not my iPhone ‘1’.
So yes, Matthew posed with me. I was starstruck. I have met quite a few famous and/ or important people, but I was starstruck.
This doesn’t sound like a big deal, but it was. I was about 17000 km away from home. I’m a shyer person than people think I am. I’m rooted in Belgian culture: don’t bother people. But that day I transcended myself. It’s one of the proudest moments of my life and I cherish that photo. I know it’s silly, but I am not sorry.