With the Beijing Olympics now in full swing, gay sporting groups have noticed that the number of out athletes is down from Athens in 2004.

Australia can claim two of the 10 out athletes in Beijing as its own -” four-time Olympian Rennae Stubbs and diver Matthew Mitcham.

The Federation of Gay Games is throwing its weight behind an online support campaign for first-time Olympian Mitcham, to encourage more athletes to compete as out Olympians at future Games.

The Federation is hoping that thousands of messages of support will be sent to Matthew as a sign of appreciation of all out athletes who practise sport at every level, FGG co-president Sion O’Connor said in a statement.

Mitcham, who is also the only out male athlete at the Beijing Games, has developed a following internationally, appearing on the cover of GLBT newsmagazine The Advocate this week. The cover story was written by Sydney Star Observer’s Harley Dennett.

Mitcham will compete in the 3-metre springboard diving on Monday and Tuesday, and the 10-metre platform on Friday and Saturday.

Stubbs will compete throughout this week in the tennis doubles.

There were 11 out athletes at Athens in 2004 and seven at Sydney in 2000, including Australian cyclist Michelle Ferris. Trampolinist Ji Wallace came out after the Athens Games.

Australians can send messages of support to Stubbs and Mitcham via hero.telstra.com/olympics.

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