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London bound

Posted in: Hall of Fame
By Jacqui Stanford - 17th April 2012

Former elite diver Simon Latimer is preparing to head to the Olympics. The gay New Zealander won’t be taking the plunge in London, but will instead have one of the best seats in the house as a judge. At just 30, he is the youngest on the panel. We find out about his path to the Olympics.

When he was just 12, Latimer switched from one spectacle sport to another when he moved from gymnastics to diving. The Otago-raised competitor represented New Zealand 11 times, but just missed out on Commonwealth Games qualification. In 2002 a spinal fracture which had impacted his form ultimately forced him to make the devastating decision to quit competing. When he retired he was New Zealand’s top male diver.

It was two years later that Latimer realised he was gay, and a year later that a close Canadian friend died tragically from a rare soft tissue cancer. He’d never told his openly-gay friend of his sexuality, and in 2006 he kept a promise to his buddy compete at the Montreal Outgames. He won three gold medals and lapped up the experience of being around other gay athletes.

Latimer was also a 'My Health Is My Greatest Asset,' poster boy for the New Zealand AIDS Foundation heading into the Outgames, telling at the time "I don't mind posing in my Speedos for a good cause."

Latimer in the NZAF campaign alongside Don Barclay
Now living in Auckland, Latimer has been a Fina judge since 2008, and has steadily risen through the ranks, eventually judging the Youth Olympics and New Delhi Commonwealth Games in 2010.

He became a judge because he wanted to remain involved in the sport, and doesn’t have the desire to be a coach, or the time, as he works as an investigator for the Health and Disability Commissioner.

“I like it because it’s instantaneous. And it’s an opportunity for you to give your opinion. In some other sports you have to come to a uniform decision between all the judges, but in diving everybody has their own score that they put up. It’s all your own business and your own thoughts.”

Latimer says you do have to have a good eye, as you don’t get an instant reply, so you can’t miss a thing.

“I guess coming from having done the dives in the past, you have a feeling for the speed that the divers go at. And watching it from start to finish, when you’re performing a dive you’re concentrating on the same things.”

He’s clearly excited about going to London for the Olympics, which something of a dream come true in a different way, as London is ‘overtaken by sporting craziness,’ as he puts it.

“I was injured and never really got to finish my diving off; I never got to go to the Olympics.

“Most of all I just to be part of the competitions, I want to be judging because I like judging and it’s fun!”

Latimer went to London for the test event in February and says the diving facility is great, as was the quality of diving. He is predicting the Chinese team will be tough to beat as they have been leading the way at recent major events, while European, North American and other Asian teams will be tough, as will the Australians.

“It’s such a global sport, and a real spectator sport, it’s probably one of the most watched sports; I did a competition in China three weeks ago and I got a report that over one billion people were tuned in to watch it. You don’t see diving much on TV, but when it is on people love to watch it.”

Looking stern while judging at the London test event

Like gymnastics, Latimer says diving is also one of those sports which often makes it onto highlights reels for all the wrong reasons, when a competitor accidently belly flops or the likes. “And those sports, particularly with the guys, can be quite easy on the eye,” he points out.

Latimer says diving is a pretty gay-friendly sport, spearheaded by the likes of Olympic gold medallists Greg Louganis and Matthew Mitcham.

“It’s one of those sports that doesn’t have a majority of gay people, but there’s always been some highly-regarded gay athletes in the sport, and that extends to officialdom as well.”

Latimer is also a national selector and a member of the Diving New Zealand Development Committee.

We’ll be looking out for him and his scores in London! loves stories about people who are out in the sports world! If you want to share your story email

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Jacqui Stanford - 17th April 2012