Gay Games Cologne Diary: Part 3. The Home Stretch
The 2010 Gay games start in Cologne on July 31st with the opening ceremonies. My very first Gay Games competition was in 1990 in Vancouver, Canada. I was 20 years old, and I had just come out to my Mom the year before. I remember having to tell my Aunt and Uncle who lived in Vancouver that I would like to stay with them because I was coming there to participate in the “Gay Games.” They were cool, and totally understood my implication without asking too many questions.
At that time, I was still struggling to become completely okay with my sexual orientation. That’s why I will never forget the moment I walked into the stadium during the parade of athletes during the opening ceremonies. I had never been around so many people like me. And after years of torment, to witness a stadium full of spectators cheering for me was unbelievable; and to this day, the sensation is still completely indescribable. All I ever tell anyone is that I was literally moved to tears.
Ever since then I have been an avid supporter and participant of the Gay Games, having swam in every single successive competition in New York, Amsterdam, Sydney, and in Chicago where I had a life-changing moment. I swam the breaststroke leg on a 4 X 50 meter medley relay that set the national record. We were only .8 seconds off the world record. And it was even more amazing because my Mom had traveled all the way from Seattle to be there in the stands to cheer me along and to watch me swim!
I have actually been a competitive swimmer since I was six years old. Throughout these many years, I have enjoyed swimming because, even though I now swim with a team, it’s actually a very solitary sport. I’ve never really had to fear teammates’ homophobia too much. I always knew that as long as I was a good swimmer, I would always be respected. And it is for this reason that the Gay Games are so important. All athletes of all levels of competition and sport from all around the world support each other in a way that I have never experienced at any other sporting event.
Since that first week in Vancouver nearly 20 years ago, I have managed to win at least one gold medal at every one of the competitions; though they get bigger and faster each time. My favorite games have been the ones outside of the United States because they attract more international athletes, which is also why I’m so excited about the upcoming games in Cologne, Germany. I swim with Team New York Aquatics (TNYA.org) and for the last 6 months I’ve been swimming at least 1.5 hours a day and lifting weights at the gym. Lately I’ve been running 5 miles a day to get my weight down. At 6 feet tall I weigh about 200 pounds and that’s a lot of weight to lug up and down the pool. It’s a lot of work for 8 events that all last less than one minute each.
The amazing thing about the Gay Games is that they encourage people of all abilities and shapes and sizes to participate. They also send a powerful message to the world about breaking away from gay stereotypes because we gays kick some serious ass!
As I mentioned above, for the upcoming games I’ve been training pretty intensely. I actually just returned from the US Nationals where I finished pretty closely to some of my all-time best times. And as a result of all of this training and competing, I do hope to come back from Cologne with some hardware, though it’s really more about the competition and the experience for me; I love meeting other athletes from around the world.
The swimming competition at the upcoming Gay Games in Cologne is six days long, so I’ll be pretty focused on that during that time. But afterwards, I’ve always enjoyed watching other sports competitions, and I hope to get that chance this year. You really haven’t lived until you’ve seen same-sex pairs of figure skaters and synchronized swimmers. It’s amazing! I hope to see you there but I will be recapping my experience with lots of photos when I get back.
Go team New York!!