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All-star spotlight: Capital Tennis

Local players find camaraderie, competition on local and international courts

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Capital Classic Tournament, gay news, Washington Blade, Capital Tennis Association

Dana Mendenhall and Quang Nguyen say they’re each passionate about playing in Capital Tennis. (Photos courtesy the players)

The Capital Tennis Association offers league play throughout the year along with its Capital Classic Tournament being a stop on the Gay & Lesbian Tennis Alliance World Tour.

Members are also experimenting with different formats including a team format like World Team Tennis, where players from each of the five divisions would form a team to play against other similar teams.

In addition, Capital Tennis offers free tennis lessons for beginners in the spring and fall months and drill sessions for members in the summer months.

This week in the ongoing Washington Blade series spotlighting athletes in the LGBT sports community, we meet two LGBT players from Capital Tennis.

Dana Mendenhall says she was born with a tennis racket in her hand because her father was the head tennis pro at a club. Raised in Montclair, Va., she left the sport behind in her rebellious teen years.

She spotted Capital Tennis in its booth at Capital Pride in 2015 and after moving to Alexandria, she signed up for its winter league.

“I didn’t have a lot interaction with the LGBT community up until that point,” Mendenhall says. “Being surrounded by my peers made it easier and fun for me to get back into the sport.”

Mendenhall is working as a dental assistant and taking classes at Northern Virginia Community College. She will move on to University of Maryland to pursue a degree in biology.

She has fully integrated back into loving tennis and has played almost every day over the past year. Along with her membership with Capital Tennis she is also playing in the Mid-Atlantic section of the United States Tennis Association and will compete in upcoming regionals at Virginia Beach.

“I think I have improved a lot over the past year and my forehand has become a weapon,” Mendenhall says. “I definitely have room for more improvement and there are always little things you can do better.”

Last fall she competed in her first Gay & Lesbian Tennis Alliance tournament at the Capital Classic and found herself facing men in all her rounds.

“It’s all equal to me because of the divisions; gender doesn’t matter at all and I look forward to teaming up with male players for mixed doubles at future tournaments,” Mendenhall says. “I always try to keep a smile on my face during my matches and I am loving being a part of Capital Tennis.”

When Capital Tennis needed an upgrade to its website, organizers looked to player Quang Nguyen who runs software company ARPH Systems with one of his brothers. Nguyen created a software that handles registration, scheduling, profiles, rankings and score lines.

Born and raised in Virginia Beach, he didn’t play organized sports and was focused primarily on violin and piano. He was however, playing tennis recreationally with his brothers. After graduating from Virginia Tech, he moved back home with his parents before finally following his college friends to D.C. in 2010.

In 2011, Nguyen attended a speed dating event hosted by the D.C. Gay Flag Football League and met several players from Capital Tennis. He signed up and began playing all four tennis leagues along with going to the Gay & Lesbian Tennis Alliance tournaments.

He lost in the first or second round of every tournament until having a breakthrough in 2014 when he won three tournaments and two silver medals at the 2014 Gay Games in Cleveland. His tournament wins qualified him for a spot in the GLTA World Championships in Palm Springs.

“I had always been athletic, but it took me a while to figure out how to win,” Nguyen says. “My mental game improved and I began playing with a lot more confidence.”

Last year, Nguyen signed up for the first GLTA tournament in Tel Aviv only to see it struggle to get participants. He would step forward again to help his tennis community.

“Five of us from Capital Tennis were signed up and all of the travel arrangements were already paid for,” Nguyen says. “I ended up sponsoring 20 players to beef up the draw and ensure that the tournament would go on.”

Now that his play has gotten better, Nguyen is lining up future tournaments including the Gay Games in Paris and enjoying his time in the LGBT tennis community.

“This is all about being around people like myself. It’s my social life and I like meeting gay athletes,” Nguyen says. “I wasn’t very good when I started, but now I am at a point where it is a mix of competition and having fun.”

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Olympic champion Tom Daley ‘furious’ about bans on trans athletes

“Anyone that’s told that they can’t compete or can’t do something they love just because of who they are, it’s not ok”

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Tom Daley (Screenshot via Channel 4 UK)

Olympic diving champion Tom Daley said he is “furious” about FINA, the world swimming body, banning some transgender athletes from women’s swimming, diving, and other competitions. 

“Anyone that’s told that they can’t compete or can’t do something they love just because of who they are, it’s not OK,” Daley said to iNews at a press conference. “It’s something I feel really strongly about. Giving trans people the chance to share their side.”

Earlier this month, FINA released the new policy on eligibility, banning athletes who have experienced male puberty from women’s competitions.

FINA President Husain Al-Musallam said the new policy intended to protect athletes’ right to compete but also ensure competition fairness.

FINA intends to create an open category for athletes whose birth sex is different from their gender identity.

“This has not been done before, so FINA will need to lead the way. I want all athletes to feel included in being able to develop ideas during this process.” Al-Musallam said.

The new policy was condemned by the Human Rights Campaign, which said that requiring athletes to transition before age 12 was unrealistic and unlikely. States such as Alabama regulate young people’s access to age-appropriate gender-affirming care.

“This sudden and discriminatory decision is a blatant attack on transgender athletes who have worked to comply with longstanding policies that have allowed them to participate for years without issue,” said Joni Madison, HRC’s Interim President, “This policy is an example of swimming organizations caving to the avalanche of ill-informed, prejudiced attacks targeted at one particular transgender swimmer.”

The new policy will impact the career of trans swimmer Lia Thomas, the first trans woman to win a NCAA Division I Women’s Swimming Championship, and may prevent her from participating and competing in the female category.

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Sports

DC Aquatics Club swimmers reflect on world title win

Team took 125 gold medals en route to breaking 72 DCAC records

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The District of Columbia Aquatics Club sent 42 swimmers to the International Gay & Lesbian Aquatics world championships in Palm Springs, Calif. (Photo courtesy DCAC)

The District of Columbia Aquatics Club sent 42 swimmers to the International Gay & Lesbian Aquatics (IGLA) world championships in Palm Springs, Calif., in April on a mission to capture their first world title since 2013.

It was a long road back to international competition for the DCAC swimmers after the disruption of training and travel brought on by the worldwide pandemic.

When the team returned from IGLA in Melbourne, Australia in March of 2020, their training pools were closed, and all competitions were canceled.

By May they had established a training site in the South River in Annapolis where they swam until November of that year. Eventually, pools began to reopen, and the team was faced with battling for training time in COVID-restricted pools.

Following the postponement of the 2022 Gay Games in Hong Kong, the IGLA community scrambled to put together a competition in Palm Springs that would be hosted in tandem by West Hollywood Aquatics and the Long Beach Grunions. 

DCAC’s swimmers in Palm Springs consisted of a mix of veterans and rookies ranging in age from 22 to 76 years old. Each swimmer was eligible to enter five individual events and three relay events.

With 67 teams in attendance, DCAC jumped out to an early lead on day one in the large team category with West Hollywood Aquatics and San Francisco Tsunami in close pursuit. 

Despite the disqualifications of two of their winning relays for early takeoffs, DCAC held on to their lead over the remaining three days to claim their first world title in nine years.

Three DCAC swimmers, Grant Casey, Carmen Robb and Jerry Frentsos, won gold in all five of their individual events. In total, the team won 125 gold, 66 silver and 35 bronze medals en route to breaking 72 DCAC team records.

Addison Winger was a first time IGLA swimmer and hadn’t competed in 12 years. He had heard the tales from past IGLAs and wanted to join in on the fun.

“It was a great experience to compete for DCAC at an international competition. I had never been in a championship meet before where you go through the process of tapering, shaving, and suiting up in tech gear,” says Winger. “The relays were amazing, and I enjoyed taking advice and feedback from our coaches to incorporate into future races. It was also great spending quality team with my teammates outside of the pool.”

Olivia Kisker had competed with DCAC at IGLA Melbourne in 2020 and was looking forward to traveling with her team again.

“Even though the days were long at the pool, we still had time for Joshua Tree, the gondolas and all that Palm Springs has to offer,” Kisker says. “I love traveling and doing it with your teammates provides a setting for bonding and getting to know people better. I also enjoyed competing against my teammate Sarah. It’s like a friendship and a rivalry.”

Craig Franz restarted his post-COVID competitive swimming at IGLA Palm Springs and went on to a training camp and open water race in Hawaii this past month.

“The whole thing about this team is relationships and sharing swimming as a common denominator. The swim competitions legitimize building relationships and supporting each other in healthy ways,” say Franz. “Palm Springs felt like a more relaxed setting, and we needed this meet to rebuild the team. It provided a nutritional base for what we are about – swimming and friendships.”

Sarah Padrutt had not competed since 2019 and all the talk about past IGLAs prompted her to attend for the first time.

“I had so much fun, and it was cool having people cheering and being supported by teammates,” Padrutt says. “It was also a nice wakeup call, a reminder of how much I like competing. I like the pressure of racing and being on relays with my team. It was a very positive experience.”

Charles Cockrell has been a Masters swimmer for decades and is the chair of the Legislation Committee for United States Masters Swimming. He came out in 2019 and these championships marked his first time competing at IGLA.

“I wanted to compete at a swim meet that was a combination of the LGBTQ community and the sport of swimming. It was a fun, accepting and engaging environment,” says Cockrell. “The takeaway was that everyone was enjoying themselves and it was nice to be gathered together in a queer space. There was an atmosphere of camaraderie, and it was great being attached to a big team like DCAC.”

Coming up next for DCAC is the United States Masters Swimming Nationals in Richmond in August. Next year, the team will travel to London for the 2023 IGLA world championships to be held in the London Olympic Pool.

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Politics

Caitlyn Jenner celebrates FINA ban on Trans swimmers on Twitter

“[…] what’s fair is fair! If you go through male puberty you should not be able to take medals away from females. Period,” Jenner tweeted

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Screenshot/YouTube Fox News

Former Olympian and one-time California Republican gubernatorial candidate Caitlyn Jenner enraged Trans activists Monday after she tweeted her approval of the FINA vote Sunday that essentially bans Trans women from participating and competing as collegiate swimmers.

“It worked! I took a lot of heat – but what’s fair is fair! If you go through male puberty you should not be able to take medals away from females. Period,” Jenner tweeted Sunday after the international athletic organization announced its vote to ban trans athletes.

The Swimming’s world governing body voted to restrict transgender athletes from elite women’s competitions. The final vote tally of the representatives was 71.5% approval for the new policy which requires transgender athletes show that “they have not experienced any part of male puberty beyond Tanner Stage 2 or before age 12, whichever is later.”

“We have to protect the rights of our athletes to compete, but we also have to protect competitive fairness at our events, especially the women’s category at FINA competitions,” FINA’s president, Husain Al-Musallam, said in a statement.

The organisation is maintaining that it was necessary to use sex and sex-linked traits to determine eligibility criteria because of the “performance gap” that appears between males and females during puberty.

Jenner’s appearances on the Fox News Network over the past six months have been unrelenting attacks on Trans athletes, especially University of Pennsylvania Women’s Team swimmer Lia Thomas. Jenner also appeared on the network to defend her attacks on Trans athletes.

“We must protect women’s sports. We cannot bow down to the radical left wing woke world and the radical politically charged agenda of identity politics,” Jenner tweeted. In another tweet she said;

“Thank you @seanhannity and @HeyTammyBruce for having a conversation grounded in common sense. All we want to do is protect women’s and girls sports! It’s that simple. And calling out the libelous, defamatory lies of @PinkNews and @emilychudy@benjamincohen

Jenner has been asked about her position on the multiple pieces of anti-Trans youth sports legislation across the United States. She responded that she saw it as a question of fairness saying that she opposed biological boys who are Trans- competing in girls’ sports in school.

“It just isn’t fair,” Jenner said adding, “and we have to protect girls’ sports in our school.”

In April the Fox network hired Jenner as on-air contributor role with her first appearance on Hannity.

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