This is the first in a series of spotlights on the LGBT athletes from the Washington area who will be competing in the 2014 Gay Games in Cleveland/Akron. Dustin Sigward will compete in swimming for the District of Columbia Aquatics Club (DCAC). He is also a member of the Stonewall Kickball League.
WASHINGTON BLADE: What is your swimming background?
DUSTIN SIGWARD: My swimming experience is almost strictly from high school in Florida. I joined the swim team my freshman year and was barely able to put my face in the water. I was raised in Virginia and my experience with pools was limited to the occasional birthday party or the random summer day. Through hard work and playing water polo, I went from dog paddling to competing in the state championships in three years. I would say that puberty had something to do with it, but I am still waiting for the time I can shave every day. I wanted to swim in college at the University of Florida whose roster at the time included Ryan Lochte. Since I put myself through school, it was not possible to work multiple jobs, attend classes and keep up with the two-a-day workouts and mandatory weight lifting that comes with Division 1 swimming. I have been swimming with DCAC for a little over a year and I am faster than I ever was in high school. At the International Gay and Lesbian Aquatics Championships (IGLA) in Seattle last year, I took home six gold medals.
BLADE: Did you play any other sports growing up?
SIGWARD: I played water polo for three years in high school. It’s a grueling sport and it really helped me step up my swimming game.
BLADE: What events will you compete in at the Gay Games?
SIGWARD: I have not registered for my events yet, but I probably will not be swimming anything over 100 meters unless it is in a relay. I will definitely be competing in the 50 freestyle, 100 freestyle and 50 butterfly.
BLADE: What will your training regimen consist of leading up to the Gay Games?
SIGWARD: I will be training in the pool three-to-four times a week and lifting weights five days a week. I would like to include some yoga, but do not see that happening with a full-time job, part-time bartending, kickball and the obligatory post-kickball flip cup.
BLADE: What is it about swimming that keeps you in the sport?
SIGWARD: Along with the health benefits, swimming is a great full body workout with low impact. If you look at some of the guys on our team, you would think we had found the fountain of youth. I also feel a great sense of achievement when I break a personal record or set a goal and can see measurable progress towards it. It is just a great sport for an introvert. I like to say that I am like a cat; I like to be people-adjacent. I like seeing them, but don’t necessarily want to interact with them for too long. Swimming is incredibly cathartic and it puts me in the zone and gives me a chance to get to know a bunch of new people without getting overwhelmed. Most of the practice is spent counting laps and singing show tunes to myself.
BLADE: Any embarrassing swimming stories to share?
SIGWARD: In high school, I was very shy and the process of getting fitted for my first Speedo was a horrifying ordeal. The female coach inspected our suits for a proper fit and just as she was about to tug at my waistband, I heard a shriek from one of the female swimmers and saw an accusatory finger pointing to the fact that most of my scrotum was hanging out of my suit. I have since grown to love Speedos but I am quite diligent about how neatly put away everything is and a few people on DCAC have commented about my suits being a little too conservative.
BLADE: Have you been to the Gay Games? What are you most looking forward to?
SIGWARD: This will be my first Gay Games and I am looking forward to beating a few personal records and maybe getting a team record in the process. Mostly I am going to enjoy traveling with a bunch of really great people.