Olympian Matthew Mitcham has left fans heartbroken after revealing his personal turmoil in coming to terms with his sexuality in the latest SAS Australia episode.
On Tuesday (17 October), Matthew was subject to a routine interrogation from the staff that led him to reveal that as a child he tried to “train” himself not to be gay.
He explained that from the age of five he knew that he was gay, but struggled with layers of internalised homophobia.
“I kinda knew from (the age of) five that I liked boys. Through primary school and religion, that’s when shame started getting put on to it,” he revealed.
“And so then I put a rubber band around my wrist – because I knew that being gay was such a bad thing – I put a rubber band around my wrist and every time I had a gay thought I’d snap the rubber band against my wrist to try associate pain with it to try and train myself out of being gay.”
Later in the interview Matthew continued to speak about his journey with self harm: “I just didn’t feel good enough. I got overwhelmed with feelings that I couldn’t keep on the inside. After one particular episode, I went far too far, and I had to call my grandma to take me to hospital.”
Upon questioning about how bad things had reached for him, Matthew fell into tears and revealed that he “tried to take my life once”.
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The interview was an opportunity for the audience to see the implications of his “ridiculous childhood trauma” that led him to almost taking his own life, the drug addiction he struggled with after his Olympic win, and his subsequent seven and a half years of sobriety.
Fans were quick to react and applauded Matthew for being “exceptional” and celebrated his “mental strength”.
Matthew responded to the outpour of love on Instagram, writing: “Thank you for all the love, support and hugs everyone. I will admit I had a little blub when I watched it again, but I’m in a good place now and I hope sharing my story can provide some experience, strength and hope to anyone else who is struggling now or in the future.
“But it is really heartwarming to see all the compassion in the community. Thank you Xx”.
Ahead of his appearance on the series he took to Instagram and said: “I’m doing it for the queers!”
This is not the first time that Matthew has been candid about his mental health and addiction. Speaking with the BBC in 2021, he spoke about the “most extreme natural high you can ever experience” in winning an Olympic gold medal before quipping “that’s why I became a drug addict”.
Matthew married his partner Luke Rutherford in 2020 and explained he was “really happy”.
“I’ve been hard on myself throughout my life, but I look back with kinder eyes now, and I’m proud of not only what I won but being able to do it all as an openly gay man, because of the oppression that is still felt in so many countries around the world.
“In Beijing there were 11 openly LGBTQIA+ athletes and then there were over 20 at London 2012 and more than 40 in Rio 2016, so it’s doubling each Games.
“I’m pleased to have hopefully played a small part in that because visibility is so important.”