Gay Olympic role models such as Australian Matthew Mitcham and England’s Tom Daley have led the way for Anton Down-Jenkins to become the first diver to represent New Zealand at an Olympic Games since 1984 and be open about being gay as he headed to Tokyo in July 2021.
The 21-year-old had been selected after securing his Olympic quota spot at the qualification event in Japan in May 2021. Down-Jenkins finished 10th in the 3m springboard – New Zealand’s best-ever finish at a diving world cup.
Down-Jenkins is a member of the rainbow community and is passionate about being a sporting role model for LGBTQ+ people.
“We don’t see too much LGBTQ+ representation in sport, so I want to be part of that representation for my community and in turn help break down the idea that someone’s sexual orientation or identity is a barrier for success in the sporting realm,” Down-Jenkins explained.
“I got really lucky because of the LGBQT representation that there has been in diving in terms of [Australian] Matthew Mitcham who won gold in Beijing and [Briton] Tom Daley who is multi Olympic medallist and world champion and having those role models proved to me that regardless of my sexual orientation or sexual identity that I can perform at the highest level of sport. I’ve never felt the need to hide who I am or think twice about it but I know that’s not the reality for a lot of people.”
Down-Jenkins is very vocal about representing LGBTQ athletes, knowing many of them do not feel as comfortable as him in being out.
“There isn’t enough LGBTQI+ representation in the [sport] media, which is why I felt the need to bring it forward and to publicly announce that I am a member of the LGBTQI+ community, I want to be that representation. I want people to see that I’m out here,” he said.
“I’m thriving. I’m competing at the highest level of sport that you can and there just needs to be more of it. For sport to be a safe place there needs to be more representation in the media. It needs to become more normalized.”
Down-Jenkins will become the first New Zealand male to compete in diving at the Olympic Games since Mark Graham and Gary Lamb in 1984.
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