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Locals win big at EuroGames

Despite event disorganization, swimmers triumph in Stockholm

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EuroGames, gay news, Washington Blade
EuroGames, gay news, Washington Blade

Members of the D.C. Aquatics Club took home 125 medals from the EuroGames. (Photo courtesy Kevin Majoros)

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

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Pro rugby player comes out

Devin Ibañez played with New England Free Jacks pre-pandemic

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Devin Ibanez, gay news, Washington Blade

Major League Rugby player Devin Ibañez came out as a gay man on his social media platforms on Tuesday. Sharing pictures of embracing and kissing his partner Fergus Wade, the former New England Free Jacks athlete stated, “as of now I am the only openly gay rugby player to earn a contract with an MLR side. I hope that I will meet others like myself playing a high level of rugby and hoping to inspire the next generation of proud LGBTQ rugby players. So I will proudly call myself ‘that gay rugger’ in hopes that one day it won’t sound strange in men’s rugby”

Ibañez shares on his new Instagram account @thatgayrugger, “as 2020 comes to a close I took the time to reflect on my life and what aspects I could control and make positive changes to that would impact my day to day life and happiness.”

He continues, “I want to start 2021 by celebrating the love of my life and my partner @ferguswade who has been with me through the highs and the (very) lows of the last three years.”

Fergus Wade and Devin Ibanez (Photo via Instagram @thatgayrugger)
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Gay Games announces 2022 ‘contingency planning committee’

LGBTQ sports event expected to take place despite turmoil in Hong Kong

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Gay Games, gay news, Washington Blade

Officials with Gay Games Hong Kong 2022, the committee organizing the quadrennial international LGBTQ sports event scheduled to take place in Hong Kong in November 2022, announced at an online webinar on Aug. 27 that a “contingency planning committee” has been created to address potential “risks” associated with the event.

Although those risks include the potential impact of the coronavirus pandemic and ongoing “social unrest” in Hong Kong, organizers stated during the webinar that the Hong Kong government remains highly supportive of the Gay Games. They said a team of more than 100 volunteers is working diligently to safely accommodate the thousands of LGBTQ athletes and spectators expected to arrive in Hong Kong in November 2022.

The webinar took place less than two months after China enacted a highly controversial security law giving the Hong Kong government greater authority in cracking down on pro-democracy protesters who have been holding demonstrations, some of which have become violent, for more than a year.

The Federation of Gay Games, the international governing body that oversees the Gay Games, reaffirmed its decision to select Hong Kong as host for the 2022 Gay Games during its Annual General Assembly meeting in Guadalajara, Mexico last November. One year earlier, the FGG selected Hong Kong over D.C. and Guadalajara, who were the two finalist cities competing with Hong Kong, to become the host city for the games.

FGG officials have predicted at least 12,000 athletes will participate in 36 sports in the 2022 Gay Games, with at least 75,000 spectators expected to turn out in Hong Kong to watch the games and participate in at least 20 accompanying arts and cultural events.

“As mentioned in the webinar, Gay Games Hong Kong 2022 has set up a contingency planning committee and has drawn up a contingency plan to cover specific risks, like the pandemic and social unrest,” said Federation of Gay Games spokesperson Shiv Paul in response to an inquiry from the Washington Blade.

“FGG with GGHK are closely monitoring the health, political, sporting, travel, and international events that could impact the delivery of Gay Games 11 in Hong Kong in November 2022,” Paul said. “Contingency plans are in development to mitigate the potential impact any unfortunate circumstances might cause,” he said.

“The team on the ground in Hong Kong are doing an excellent job in keeping the board up to date with concerns surrounding Hong Kong,” Paul quoted Joanie Evans, co-president of the FGG, as saying.

Paul added, “The GGHK team is composed of a team of 100 passionate LGBTQ+ volunteers and are looking forward to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Gay Games, first in Asia. They happily make Hong King their home, feeling safe in the ability to lead out, productive lives. The organization cannot speculate on sensationalized unconfirmed preconceptions.”

He was referring to a question from the Blade asking whether China might force local Hong Kong officials to arrest Gay Games spectators from Europe, North America or elsewhere if they make statements critical of China during the Gay Games cultural events.

Under the sweeping national security law enacted by China earlier this year, Hong Kong officials have made numerous arrests of dissidents denouncing China for infringing on what dissidents say was China’s 1997 agreement with the United Kingdom to allow Hong Kong to remain a semiautonomous region of China for 50 years after the British handed over its former colony to China.

Paul said the Hong Kong government has been involved in the Gay Games Hong Kong organizers’ application process for holding the Games in Hong Kong beginning in 2016.

“GGHK has been having ongoing and regular communications with multiple departments of the Hong Kong government to ensure that they are kept abreast of the process and support required from the government,” Paul told the Blade.

“In all the interactions GGHK is having with the Hong Kong government, support continues to grow within the Hong Kong government regarding GGHK,” he said. “New allies are offering support as it will be one of the biggest events to take place in Hong Kong during the next few years and stands to positively impact on the city,” said Paul.

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Arts & Entertainment

Irish national track champion comes out as gay

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Another international pro athlete has come out as gay, in a podcast interview dropped by Outsports on Monday.

Denis Finnegan, a 10-time national track-and-field title winner in Ireland, made his revelation on the Five Rings To Rule Them All podcast, telling interviewer Cyd Zeigler that he has been “drifting” toward coming out in recent years even though being gay is only a small part of who he is “as a person, and an even smaller part as an athlete,” in order to help other LGBTQ people in sports feel less alone.

“For younger people it will hopefully give them more confidence in what they’re doing,” the 33-year-old Finnegan said. “There are still people who are scared or unsure of what’s happening, so I hope just telling my story might help one person notice there’s more acceptance out there.”

The athlete, who won his 10 championships in triple jump, said that he eventually gravitated toward track and field – as opposed to team sports like basketball and Gaelic football, which he played in his younger years – because he found the atmosphere more welcoming.

“Athletics was always a place that, because it was quite mixed, it was a place I could have gotten away from everything,” he told the podcast.

“I think those sports, because they were a team sport with males, there were times when it wasn’t comfortable,” he elaborated. “Athletics was always my favorite sport, it was always the sport that was the one that was the most open. I’d be training with girls, I’d be training with guys, and I think that did help a bit. I was never worried about any kind of comments on the track. But when I was going for, say, football, it was more of an issue.”

He also said that after growing up with sports as a major part of his identity, it was important for him to find a way to continue participating after his university years.

“I loved sport and my whole family was sporty. I’d want to be doing the sports, but there was a part of them I wasn’t enjoying at all,” he said, echoing a sentiment shared by many LGBTQ athletes who feel pressured to remain closeted due to the hyper-masculine environment and hetero-normative expectations typically found in male-dominated team sports.

In the interview, Finnegan also opens up about the strains of being publicly “closeted” while maintaining a personal life, as well as additional issues he faced in both the public and private sphere.

As a final thought, he shared a quote from a speech by Theodore Roosevelt:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, and comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”

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