Australian Institute of Sport launches ‘Thrive with Pride’ program

The Australian Institute of Sport have launched a new scheme which aims to offer more support to LGBTIQA+ sports people.

The inaugural AIS Thrive with Pride program has signed up fourteen athletes from 10 different sports to be ambassadors for the new scheme which which aims to provide safe and inclusive sporting environments for all athletes to thrive.

Two-time Olympic diver Matthew Mitcham says finding his “authentic self” was the catalyst to coming out of retirement and winning Olympic gold.

“Growing up gay and not feeling confident enough to be my authentic self within my training environment as a teenager prevented me from really bringing my full self to training,” Mitcham said.

“Finding myself in a squad where I felt comfortable enough to be myself had the most profound effect on my self-esteem and allowed me to be fully present like never before,” Mitcham said. “This was a catalyst that took me from retired to Olympic champion in 15 months before the Beijing Olympic Games, which is why I am so passionate about creating open, inclusive environments to nurture optimum performance.”

Former Australia Rugby Sevens captain and Olympic gold medalist Sharni Williams says she was once a “human in the dark”, until sport allowed her to find her true self.

“Sport is such a powerful vehicle for finding who you are and what you are capable of; and it has enabled me to be visible in my community living the life I was given to live and loving the person I want to love. I want this for others … I want to help create normality and help educate our sporting world and this program has the opportunity to do this, one sport at a time.”

Non-binary shot-putter Maria Strong made their Paralympic debut on Tokyo last year, taking bronze. Strong has bigger ambitions for sport. “I grew up queer, autistic and physically disabled, with unusual interests and a difficult-to-pronounce foreign surname,” Strong said. “For as long as I can remember, I have been driven to make the world a better, more inclusive place.”

Joining Mitcham, Williams and Strong as program ambassadors are water Polo player Rowie Webster, rowers Nikki Ayers, Katarina Bateman and Alexandra Viney, cyclists Kerrie Rosemond and Gracie Elvin, shot putter Maria Strong, cross-country skier Katerina Paul, gymnasts Heath Thorpe and Dominic Clarke,  slalom canoeist Noemie Fox, and Katarina Kowplos who is an expert in shooting.

AIS Acting CEO Matti Clements said the athlete ambassadors, which comprise LGBTIQ+ athletes and allies, were motivated to engage, educate and empower athletes at all levels to provide inclusive sporting environments.

“I want to thank these athlete ambassadors for putting their hands up to be the leaders for this program, because this has the potential to change lives and sporting environments for the better,” Clements said.

“They will be delivering presentations in sporting environments, endeavouring to build trust, foster change, promote inclusion and ensure every athlete across every sport has the opportunity to thrive as themselves.”

Find out more about the program. 

OIP Staff

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