Aussie Olympic champion Matthew Mitcham says he's comfortable being seen as an icon for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.
The 24-year-old openly gay diver, who won the 10-meter platform event and received the highest single-dive score in Olympic history during the 2008 games in Beijing, told the Sydney Morning Herald in a new interview that he doesn't mind the attention paid to his personal life.
"I certainly don't see it as a burden,'' Mitcham told the paper after a training session in Sydney. ''I never did, especially with how much attention the LGBT cause has been getting lately with marriage equality…and with how few openly gay sports stars there are around at the moment."
"Ideally I would like one day for sexuality to be as unimportant and uninteresting as hair color, or eye color or even just gender in general. One day it will get to that.
But until it is easy for sports people to come out without fear of persecution or fear of lost sponsorship income and stuff like that, or fear of being comfortable in the team environment, I don't mind attention being brought to my sexuality in the hope that it might make other people feel more comfortable…in being comfortable enough about who they are in their sporting environment."
Mitcham, who has reportedly been plagued by injuries for the past year, is preparing to defend his title at the 2012 Olympic Games in London this summer. As The Guardian notes, he appears to be back in top form, attracting perfect 10s from all seven judges on one of his dives to post a plus-550 score at the Australian trials.
Check out other openly LGBT sportspeople below: