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Olympic gold medallist Matthew Mitcham retires from diving

 If he hadn't lived it, Matthew Mitcham reckons his life could be a far-fetched movie plot.

"There's something within the story," Mitcham said on Thursday after announcing his retirement from diving.

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"Part of my gratitude and humility is that people actually care about it. It's very humbling."

Mitcham won gold at the 2008 Beijing Games with the highest-scoring single dive in Olympic history – four of the seven 10m platform judges gave him a perfect 10.

Twisting and turning: Matthew Mitcham has retired from diving.
Twisting and turning: Matthew Mitcham has retired from diving. Photo: Getty Images

Mitcham said that dive was his "life-changing moment". But a few others run a close second.

Movie producers would likely open with a boy Mitcham jumping on a rusty second-hand trampoline, given to his single mother – he didn't meet his father until aged 22.

Then cut to a scene of an 11-year-old Mitcham showing off at a Brisbane pool – by chance, a diving scout saw his double somersaults and asked him to try out.

Aged 13, Mitcham won a world trampoline title.

Aged 14, he told his mother he was gay. Armed with a fake ID, he became a regular at Brisbane's gay nightclub scene.

Aged 15, he was diagnosed with clinical depression. His self-harming with razor blades resulted in his mother throwing him out of home.

So he swapped that self-harm method for another: drugs. Taking marijuana, LSD, ecstasy, Mitcham would often go out clubbing until 5am, then train in a blur at 6am.

He missed selection for the 2004 Olympics.

But, just turned 18, he competed at the 2006 Commonwealth Games though was underwhelmed by finishing fourth and fifth in his events.

Later that year, after a clash with his coach, he was sent home from the world junior championships. So he quit the sport; only to take it up again the next year under a new coach.

Aged 20 in Beijing, he performed "that" dive. And became the first openly gay athlete to win an Olympic gold medal, having publicly come out two months before the Games.

"I remember being underwater wondering if I had done it," Mitcham said.

"It felt good. Then I came up and everyone in the Water Cube was going bananas."

But after the Olympic high, life was an anti-climax. Depression again set in. So did the drugs, this time crystal meth.

Mitcham continued diving and won four silver medals at the 2010 Commonwealth Games. But still wasn't satisfied.

Post-Games, he suffered spinal stress fractures, followed by torn abdominal muscles. He self-medicated with more crystal meth, and became addicted – he entered rehab in 2011 and came out clean.

He made the 2012 London Olympic team but didn't make the final. So he thought about quitting but decided on one last hurrah at the 2014 Commonwealth Games.

"I went better than expected," he said, surprised to win two more silver medals.

So he postponed quitting and set his sights on this year's Rio Olympics.

But then recently he came to the realisation.

"I had achieved all my big goals in diving ... I couldn't find anything to still achieve," he said.

Preparing for Thursday's retirement announcement, Mitcham found time to "indulge in a little bit of nostalgia".

What did he find in reflection?

"I was fortunate with a few circumstances," he said.

"I don't think everything necessarily happens for a reason.

"But I have made the most of my opportunities, I have tried to live my life like that."

Mitcham acknowledged his life's movie-like script. But he has already been there, in cabaret.

He has performed a cabaret show of his life, Twists and Turns, the same name as his autobiography.

Mitcham tells his story through singing and playing an instrument he picked up when injured in 2010 – the ukulele.

Now 27 and retired, he's planning more chapters and scenes to his life story.

His current projects include two more cabaret shows. And a career in media and entertainment, deliberately using that "very broad umbrella" term.

"I'm going to throw myself into the media and entertainment industry," he said.

"I don't really want to limit myself to just television or just radio or just the stage.

"There is nothing that compares to being an Olympian.

"Both are performances, definitely. That is what I enjoy doing.

"Sport is a form of performance – you're performing for the judges, for the crowd.

"I do get a rush out of performing for people."

AAP

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