Matthew Mitcham: the narrative of a gay sporting icon

Brent McDonald, Daniel Eagles

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (SciVal)


When Australian diver Matthew Mitcham produced a world-record score with his final dive from the 10m platform to win the gold medal at the Beijing Olympics, he did so as the 'only openly gay man at the Olympics'. This paper examines the Australian print media's narrative of Mitcham leading into, during and after the Games. In the hetero-normative world of Australian sport, the normative narrative carries four storylines: performance, national identity, masculinity and significant relationships. Combined, these storylines resonate with audiences and have the potential to create the vortex of publicity required to launch an athlete into the world of sponsorship and celebrity. Initially, with few exceptions, the media fails to write the masculinity and significant-relationships storylines about Mitcham and he fails to gain sponsorship. However, free of the narrative conventions and constraints of an Olympic games, it is the very same media that proceed to write in the missing narratives post-Olympics and act almost as activists on Mitcham's behalf. The result is Mitcham's transformation into a marketable, popular sporting celebrity: sitting comfortably in both mainstream and LGBT culture and sport, a role model for young same-sex-attracted people, and a voice of experience about homophobia and issues of sexuality in sport. Leading into the London Olympics, stories about Mitcham contribute to an alternative masculine narrative that becomes available for young sportsmen and women to consider.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)297-318
JournalCelebrity Studies
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2012


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