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Couples that play together, stay together

Meet locals who mix love and sport

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LGBT sports couples, gay news, Washington Blade

Brigid Beech and Sharifa Love met while playing for the Furies. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

There are a lot of clichés about relationships that people either embrace or avoid.

Love is blind. Opposites attract. It was love at first sight.

What about ‘couples who play together, stay together’?

Meet two LGBT sports couples from D.C. who are carving their own path together by including sports in their relationships.

When Sharifa Love was attending Yale, her roommates were all rugby players and they repeatedly asked her to join their team. Love was busy with other sports and just brushed it aside. It wasn’t until the end of her senior year that they convinced her to come to a rugby practice because they were short a player for an upcoming tournament.

“During a tackle at that first practice, the other girl ended up bleeding and crying,” says Love. “I turned to my new teammates and said, ‘This is the best, I’ll be back.’”

Growing up in Rockville, Love played soccer all the way through high school along with running track. While attending Yale, she ran track for two years and then turned her focus on intramural sports such as squash and ice hockey.

The rugby experience stayed with her after the first tournament and when she returned to the D.C. area after graduation, she looked up adult rugby and joined the DC Furies in 2009.

“I love the physicality and the strategic aspect of the game. Most of my improvement has come from becoming more familiar with tactics,” Love says. “Plus, I just like hitting people; it’s a great outlet.”

Love, who is the development and communications coordinator at SMYAL, is enjoying her life as a rugger. She loves the community aspect and has played all over the country as part of the Women’s Premier League. This November her team will travel to nationals in Phoenix, Ariz.

In 2013, she began dating one of her teammates, Brigid Beech. They had been playing together for the Furies for four years.

Beech arrived in D.C. in 2005 for a job with IBM, consulting with federal clients. It was her first job out of college and as the years passed, she found herself in a rut.

“My life was terrible and I was hating everything,” says Beech. “It finally hit me that I hadn’t played sports in three years, so in 2009 I joined the Furies.”

Born in Ireland, Beech was raised in West Newbury, Mass., and in her first year of high school, she played soccer, basketball and softball. She transferred to a boarding school and changed things up by switching to cross country, ice hockey and lacrosse.

“I really enjoy the culture of team sports,” Beech says. “I have always been the ‘class clown’ and that sense of belonging is important.”

Beech took a gap year and played soccer with a team in Germany while being a part of the Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange. During her four years at Bates College, she played rugby and captained in her senior year.

Just one year after she started dating Love, Beech would leave the Furies and return to ice hockey playing for the Washington Wolves.

“The level of play and amount of dedication required is very high in rugby,” says Beech. “Picking ice hockey back up is vital to my ability to remember that everything is not about work. I need a healthy outlet and a support system.”

Both women are now playing together again with Rogue Darts while they also maintain their separate sports.

Love said, “We had been friends all along on the Furies, and when we became a couple there was some awkwardness with the team at practices and scrimmages. We didn’t want to show up at practice and be ‘that’ couple.”

Beech replied, “I had dated other players on the team and there is a risk in introducing another layer into a safe space. It becomes high stakes. … It felt super competitive at the beginning. She is so fast and once I caught a piece of her jersey and tackled her out of bounds after the whistle blew. It wasn’t one of my finer moments. She was so pleased that she had gotten me riled up.”

While he was attending Pacific Lutheran University, Ken Kriese was interested in rowing but just couldn’t pull the trigger. He had a physical education requirement and ended up choosing aerobics instead of rowing. Kriese was a military brat growing up and none of the sports he tried, such as soccer and bowling, clicked with him. Born in Tehran, he grew up all over the place but considers Seattle home.

“I spent my junior year of college abroad in England and finally connected with rowing,” says Kriese. “I rowed at Pacific Lutheran for my senior year along with two years while completing my master’s at University of Minnesota.”

Following his doctorate work at the University of California, Davis and a short stint in Memphis, Kriese came to D.C. in 2007 where he works in migratory bird conservation for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. He joined the DC Strokes Rowing Club shortly after arriving.

“Rowing is a natural fit for me because I like the team aspect. You row as a team, you race as a team, and you win as a team,” Kriese says. “DC Strokes has become my circle of friends and family. Because of what I do for a living, it is also appealing to me to be out on the water.”

While he was serving as president of the Strokes in 2015, Kriese met Jeffrey Gonzalez who was serving as the coordinator of the DC Front Runners. The Strokes volunteered at Pride Run 5K and the Front Runners volunteered at Stonewall Regatta. Numbers were exchanged.

Gonzalez moved to the area in 2007 and saw the Front Runners at the Capital Pride parade. He joined the group and has since completed 19 marathons in locations around the world.

His father was in the military and after being born in Colorado, Gonzalez grew up in Fayetteville, N.C., where he didn’t play any sports.

“I was an overweight kid and I started running in the 9th grade and lost a bunch of weight,’ says Gonzalez. “I stuck with running on my own, and ran my first marathon in my senior year of high school.”

After earning degrees at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and University of Michigan, Gonzalez works as a division chief at the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and wrapped up his Ph.D. at the University of Maryland.

“I didn’t know anyone when I moved here and it has been great being a part of the Front Runners family,” Gonzalez says.

Kriese had completed a marathon before they met and together they have run marathons across the country. Kriese rowed at the USRowing Masters Nationals last week and both will be running at the Dopey Challenge at Walt Disney World in a few months.

“One of our first dates was a White House tour and we were in the Red Room when the same-sex marriage ruling came through,” said Gonzalez. “I decided to keep dating him even though he was wearing pleated pants.” Gonzalez added, “I am more of a solitary competitive person. He is very competitive. Sometimes I think we are just going out for a casual run, and then he goes balls out. It’s nice to have someone to get you out the door to train though I find myself being mad at him for both sides of that.”

Kriese replied, “Yes, I am a competitive person but I am competing against myself, not him. I have been told not to run faster than him, but I have. If one of us is feeling good, he can take off.”

LGBT sports couples, gay news, Washington Blade

Ken Kriese and Jeffrey Gonzalez met thanks to their shared love of running. (Photo by Shawn Lo)

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Las Vegas Raiders head coach resigns after homophobic emails surface

Discovery made during misconduct investigation into the Washington Football Team

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Courtesy of ESPN

LAS VEGAS — The head coach of the Las Vegas Raiders, Jon Gruden resigned his post Monday after an article in the New York Times reported that he frequently used misogynistic and homophobic language directed at Commissioner Roger Goodell and others in the National Football League, (NFL).

The emails were discovered in a workplace misconduct investigation into the Washington Football Team the Times reported, but ended up costing Gruden his job when they also showed Gruden denounced the drafting of a gay player and the tolerance of players protesting during the playing of the national anthem among other issues.

In a statement released by the team late Monday, Gruden said; “I have resigned as Head Coach of the Las Vegas Raiders. I love the Raiders and do not want to be a distraction. Thank you to all the players, coaches, staff, and fans of Raider Nation. I’m sorry, I never meant to hurt anyone.”

The sequence of events started last Friday when the Wall Street Journal reported that Gruden used a racist term to describe NFL union chief DeMaurice Smith in a 2011 email to the Washington team’s former executive Bruce Allen.

According to the Associated Press, Gruden apologized for his “insensitive remarks” about Smith, saying they were made out of frustration over the 2011 lockout. But the latest emails sent from between 2011-18 when Gruden was an analyst for ESPN show his use of derogatory language went well beyond that.

A league source confirmed the accuracy of the emails to the Associated Press and said they were sent to the Raiders last week. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the league hasn’t made the emails public.

The New York Times and the Associated Press both noted that Gruden used a gay slur to insult Goodell and said he was “clueless” and “anti-football.” He also said Goodell shouldn’t have pressured the Rams to draft “queers,” a reference to Michael Sam, who was the first openly gay player drafted by an NFL team.

Gruden’s abrupt resignation was announced live on the Colts/Ravens “Monday Night Football” broadcast when the NFL ran multiple LGBTQ-inclusive advertisements, including one featuring an NFL logo wrapped in the colors of the Trans Flag and Rainbow Flag Gay City News Editor Matt Tracy reported.

Raiders owner Mark Davis issued a statement which only said that he accepted Gruden’s resignation. In a separate statement the Raiders announced that special teams and assistant head coach Rich Bisaccia will serve as Interim Head Coach of the Las Vegas Raiders, effective immediately.

“Coach Bisaccia will meet with the media at the regularly scheduled media availability on Wednesday,” the team said.

According to ESPN and the Associated Press, Bisaccia has been a special teams coordinator in the NFL for 19 seasons with the Raiders, Chargers, Dallas and Tampa Bay. He has no head coaching experience but his elevation will allow other assistants in the Raiders organization such as defensive coordinator Gus Bradley to stay in their current roles.

Jon Gruden resigns as Raiders head coach | SC with SVP

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New Zealand university names trans athlete ‘sportswoman of the year’

Laurel Hubbard is first out trans woman to compete in Olympics

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Screenshot via CBS Sports

DUNEDIN, New Zealand — Olympic weightlifter Laurel Hubbard was named “sportswoman of the year” at the prestigious 113-year-old University of Otago and OUSA Blues and Golds Awards event this past week.

The 43-year-old Queenstown, South Island, native was the first openly transgender woman to compete in an Olympics when she competed in the women’s 87kg weightlifting event at the 2021 Tokyo Games.

In a statement to the local newspaper, the Otago Daily Times, Hubbard said she was ‘‘grateful for all of the support and kindness received from the teaching staff and students at Otago University.’’

‘‘It is not possible for athletes to complete at the Olympic level without the encouragement and aroha [a Māori word meaning “love”] of friends, family and supporters.

‘‘This award belongs to everyone who has been part of my Olympic journey,’’ she told the paper.

Hubbard’s participation at the Tokyo Games had provoked controversy as she had prepared for competing as the world’s first out transgender woman Olympian. The director of medicine and science for the International Olympic Committee, Dr. Richard Budgett, directly addressed those who had attacked and mocked the New Zealander and claimed she shouldn’t be competing with cisgender women, saying  “everyone agrees that trans women are women.”

“To put it in a nutshell,” he said, “the IOC had a scientific consensus back in 2015. There are no IOC rules or regulations around transgender participation. That depends on each international federation. So Laurel Hubbard is a woman, is competing under the rules of her federation and we have to pay tribute to her courage and tenacity in actually competing and qualifying for the Games.”

Otago University Students’ Association president Michaela Waite-Harvey told the Otago Daily Times that the Blues awards aim to highlight Otago students excelling in their chosen sport.

‘‘We could think of no-one more worthy of sportswoman of the year than Laurel Hubbard who represented Otago and New Zealand incredibly well at this year’s Tokyo Olympics.’’

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Gold medalist Tom Daley battled COVID in hospital prior to Tokyo games

An x-ray revealed “blotches” on his lungs, and he was kept at the hospital for 10 hours to increase his oxygen levels

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Tom Daley (Photo by sportsphotographer.eu via Bigstock)

LONDON – British Olympic champion diver Tom Daley acknowledged in an recent interview with British newspaper The Times, that he had been secretly rushed to hospital seven months prior to the summer Tokyo Olympic games after contracting the coronavirus.

Daley told the paper “[my] lungs felt pressurised, as if they had sacks of rice around them”, and added: “Every time I stood up, I felt the room spinning and a blinding white light, as if I was going to faint, and as if I couldn’t get enough oxygen into my body.”

He went on to describe his ordeal in graphic details telling Times journalist Jane Mulkerrins that he gave specific instructions to his husband, screenwriter D. Lance Black one night as he headed off to sleep, what to do in the event he quit breathing.

He also told Mulkerrins he was frightened for their son Robbie if he and his husband both contracted the COVID-19 coronavirus, especially after he was rushed to hospital by ambulance unable to breath correctly.

When his head began to feel like it had “a vice tightening around it” and his “oxygen levels were dropping,” it was at that point Daley said he decided to call 111. [The UK’s emergency phone number]

‘My oxygen levels were dropping’

He was rushed to hospital in an ambulance and put on oxygen. An x-ray revealed “blotches” on his lungs, and he was kept at the hospital for 10 hours to increase his oxygen levels, The Times reported.

“I understood how quickly things could potentially go downhill,” said Daley.

“I had flashes of fear about whether I would be put on a ventilator, and my time being up. I was really terrified.”

He also described his reasons for keeping his ordeal secret so that his rivals in his sport wouldn’t know.

The episode kept the Olympian diver out of training for nearly seven months although Daley along with his British teammate diving partner Matty Lee won the gold with a score of 471.81 in the men’s synchronized diving on at the Tokyo 2021 games.

After tough competition in the Men’s 10m platform diving from China’s Cao Yuan who picked up the Gold Medal and his teammate Yang Jian cinching the number two spot with a Silver Medal, the 27-year-old Daley secured a Bronze Medal win with a score of 548.25.

It was the second Olympic Bronze Medal for the Plymouth, England native, in individual diving completion since he won bronze at the London Games in 2012. Daley and his teammate Daniel Goodfellow won a Bronze Medal in the 10m synchronised at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil.

The Times interview comes as the paper’s magazine is serializing Daley’s new book, Coming Up for Air: What I Learned from Sport, Fame and Fatherhood, which is due to be published by Harper Collins on October 14.

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