Athletes from three of the local LGBT sports teams returned home this week from the 2015 EuroGames in Stockholm, Sweden. About 30 swimmers, 12 water polo players and two bowlers from D.C. competed in the event which attracted more than 5,000 athletes from 51 countries who contested events in 27 sports.
For the swimmers, the event also doubled as the annual International Gay & Lesbian Aquatics world championships. After the races in the pool ended, the District of Columbia Aquatics Club (DCAC) was in possession of 125 medals.
The Washington Wetskins Water polo players got off to a rough start but finished strong to take fifth place in the competitive division of water polo.
DCAC awarded multiple scholarships to swimmers on the team to assist in the costs associated with international travel. One of the recipients was 22-year-old Kevin Muehleman who is from Dallas and attended college at Louisiana State University. He moved to D.C. in February and joined the DCAC team the next month. The EuroGames marked his first time competing in the pool since high school, though he did swim the two-mile open water race in the DCAC hosted Swim for Life in July.
“I didn’t play sports while I was in college,” says Muehleman, who is working in the MBA office of admissions at Georgetown University. “It has been great being a part of the DCAC team and getting back into shape.”
Meuhleman’s youthful exuberance hasn’t gone unnoticed by his teammates who have dubbed him with the nickname, Baby Kev. He says he is hoping to recruit more swimmers around his age to line up relays to help the team score points at big meets. His scholarship paid for the registration fees and air travel to Stockholm and he is already planning his trip with the team to the world championships in Edmonton, Canada in 2016.
“This has been a great experience and I finally got to know my teammates. There isn’t time to make these connections in practice,” Muehleman says. “It is going to be much more fun going forward now that I have some history with the team.”
LGBT multi-sport events such as the EuroGames, the Gay Games and the OutGames are well known for fostering positive attention for the LGBT sports movement and for human rights. It was both heartwarming and disturbing when the Russian LGBT Sport Federation marched in during the opening ceremonies which were televised live on Swedish national television.
One of the athletes had her face covered in a bandana for fear of repercussions upon returning home. Her masked presence indicates that the LGBT climate in Russia is not progressing as rapidly as the rest of the world and that much work still needs to be done. The fact that their LGBT athletes continue to participate in these events, despite what is going on in their homeland, is a positive sign.
In terms of the sports competitions at the EuroGames, Stockholm did not receive glowing reviews and there was drama at the sports venues on a daily basis. Clearly unorganized, the city was not prepared to welcome athletes from all over the world. The volleyball players refused to play at their venue because it was not regulation and there were issues with track & field, squash, basketball, dance sport, swimming and water polo.
The worst possible thing happened on Thursday night at midnight when the triathlon was cancelled just hours before it was to be held early Friday morning. Imagine dragging your expensive bike halfway across the world only to be told you can’t race. Not to mention the costs involved.
The swimming venue was complete chaos for three days. The order of swimmers was juggled right up to the moments they stepped on the blocks. Swimmers were also forced to compete two to a lane in the distance events and in those same races had to start in the water instead of going off the blocks. On day two, they moved both the long distance events (800 and 1,500 freestyles) to the same session and the swimmers were at the pool from 7 a.m.-10 p.m.
The chaos led a European team to believe they could get away with combining swimmers from their teams (which is illegal) to win a relay gold medal. They did win the gold medal and another team noticed the false representation. A protest was filed and they were stripped of their medal. That resulted in a screaming match between a female swim official and the offending male coach which progressed into a shoving match. The swimmers were ejected from the pool.
Public apologies were issued by EuroGames Stockholm for the all the venues and the Stockholm Dolphins swim team in regard to the aquatics events. Both denied any responsibility for the missteps. The bottom line is that these are amateur athletes who trained and traveled at their own expense. No one is saying that it is easy to orchestrate multi-sports events, but in this case, the athletes deserved better. Thankfully, everyone was still smiling at the closing ceremonies.
List of the DCAC medal winners:
Steve Dickens 1 Silver
Candace Crasto 4 Gold, 2 Silver, 2 Bronze
John Crowe 1 Silver
Shannon Green 2 Gold, 1 Silver, 1 Bronze
Eric Czander 3 Gold, 2 Silver, 1 Bronze
Sara Hewitt 2 Gold, 4 Silver, 2 Bronze
Wonkee Moon 1 Gold, 1 Silver, 1 Bronze
Lindsey Warren-Shriner 3 Gold, 2 Silver, 1 Bronze
Jay Calhoun 3 Gold, 4 Silver
Noura Hemady 3 Gold, 2 Silver, 1 Bronze
Dustin Sigward 1 Gold, 3 Silver
Craig Franz 4 Gold, 1 Silver
John Tustin 2 Silver, 1 Bronze
Andrew Frampton 2 Gold, 3 Silver
Neill Williams 6 Gold, 1 Silver
Paul Quincy 2 Gold, 2 Silver, 2 Bronze
Dawson Nash 1 Gold, 2 Silver, 4 Bronze
Kevin Muehleman 1 Silver, 1 Bronze
Patrick Barrett 1 Gold, 2 Silver
Fred Dever 3 Gold, 3 Silver, 2 Bronze
Molly Lincoln 5 Gold, 1 Silver
Rob Jeter 1 Gold, 2 Silver, 1 Bronze
Jonathan Horsford 1 Silver
Sam Smedinghoff 2 Bronze
Jason Bricker 2 Silver, 1 Bronze
Kevin Majoros 1 Bronze
Rebecca Menes 1 Silver, 2 Bronze
Jeff Mead 1 Gold, 1 Bronze
Brent Quinn 1 Bronze