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Diver to represent NZ and LGBTQ+ in Tokyo


Anton Down-Jenkins will be the lone New Zealand diver at the Tokyo Olympics.

New Zealand's Anton Down-Jenkins competes in the men's 3m springboard diving event during the 2019 World Championships at Nambu International Aquatics Centre in Gwangju on July 17, 2019.

Photo: AFP

The 21-year-old has been selected after securing his Olympic quota spot at the qualification event in Japan earlier this month.

Down-Jenkins finished 10th in the 3m springboard – New Zealand’s best ever finish at a diving world cup.

“I just went into the competition wanting to have fun and I told myself if I qualify an Olympic spot that’s great but if it doesn’t happen no worries.

“My head space and mindset is something I’ve really been working on lately and it really paid dividends at that competition.

“I’m super proud to represent New Zealand, we don’t have as much resource in diving as some of the big powerhouse nations and so that just makes me even more thrilled with this achievement. It’s so awesome to know that my hard work has paid off.”

It comes after a “scary episode” for Down-Jenkins late last year.

Down-Jenkins had Covid-19 in August and it was “pretty rough”.

“It definitely threw a spanner in the works in terms of my training and in terms of my health it definitely pushed me back a few steps just because of the effect I notice it did have on my respiratory system.

“Coming back into training I had to take it really, really slowly and was monitoring heart rate intensity for weeks. I had to be really careful because knowing that my body had gone through reacting to Covid I didn’t know how in term my body would react with getting back to such intense training.

“It was definitely a learning process for me and my coach to see what I could do, what felt like too much and how I can get back to that competitive level without injuring myself. It took me a while to get back to where I could perform but I’ve been great for the past four months and can’t wait to get back to Tokyo.”

Anton Down-Jenkins of New Zealand competes in the men's 3m springboard final at the FINA Diving World Cup and test event for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre on May 6, 2021.

Photo: AFP

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.

“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.”

Being an Olympic athlete gave Down-Jenkins an opportunity to show others what was possible and he wasn’t going to waste it.

“Going to the Olympics does ultimately give me a bit of a platform, it may not be huge, but it doesn’t make sense in my mind not to use it.

“It doesn’t matter how big my audience is, if someone’s seeing it and is gaining something valuable from it then that makes it absolutely worthwhile.”

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.

Rio Olympian Elizabeth Cui also qualified a diving spot for New Zealand but will not be competing in Tokyo as she has just announced she is pregnant with her first child.

“Although I won’t be able to compete at Tokyo I’m so thrilled to be starting a wee family and brewing a future New Zealand Olympian,” Cui said.

“I’d like to congratulate Anton and I can’t wait to watch him represent New Zealand diving in Tokyo.”

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