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Local athletes excited for Paris Gay Games

Quadrennial competition kicks off next month

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Team DC, Cleveland Gay Games, gay news, Washington Blade
Paris Gay Games, Team DC, Cleveland Gay Games, gay news, Washington Blade

The last Gay Games was held in Cleveland; this year, athletes are headed to Paris. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

In three weeks, athletes from D.C. will take on competitors from around the world at the 10th edition of the Gay Games in Paris.

The Gay Games are held every four years and the venues in Paris will host 12,000 athletes from more than 80 countries who will compete in 36 sports.

Local athletes from multiple sports will march in the opening ceremonies together under the D.C. banner in a uniform that was organized by Team DC.

John Guzman is slated to compete in his third Gay Games and is embracing a new sport in Paris. Previously, he competed in soccer and squash. He is now a member of Lambda Links and will be golfing individually along with playing in the team event with his partner, Steve Sparks.

“The Ryder Cup is being held in Paris in September and the golf superintendent is gay. He is opening the course to all the Gay Games participants after our competition is over. I am so geeked out to play on that course,” says Guzman. “Our community has multiple things that tie us together and I love that the Gay Games offers commonalities that can be built in other ways.”

The water polo competition will include 32 teams competing in two divisions. Kris Pritchard will be attending his second Gay Games with his teammates from the Washington Wetskins.

“Now more than ever, this event is an opportunity for the LGBT community to show the world what it means to put aside the differences our countries might have,” Pritchard says. “It’s going to be an amazing week and I tip my hat to the volunteers and organizers who are involved to make this happen.”

David Monroe will travel to Paris with players from the DC Sentinels basketball team. Members from their squads have medaled in the last two Gay Games.

“I was at the Gay Games in Amsterdam in 1998 and Chicago in 2006. I look forward to seeing how the gay community is still coming together for inclusive competition and fun,” says Monroe. “It will be a great 10 days.”

The triathlon in Paris will be contested in the sprint distance and Olympic distance. Bryan Frank from TriOut will be competing in his second Gay Games.

“It will be exciting to take on an Olympic distance triathlon outside of Paris and defend my title after winning the race in Cleveland four years ago,” Frank says. “I am also thrilled at the prospect of exploring more of the Games, seeing other events, meeting athletes and experiencing Paris.”

This will be the third Gay Games for Federal Triangles Soccer Club player Jim Ensor after competing in Cologne in 2010 and Cleveland in 2014.

“I look forward to the competition and camaraderie of an international competition. It’s such a delicate balance to compete in friendship.” Says Ensor. “I love seeing how the Games are incorporated into the city and surrounding areas along with how it is received by the city.”

Mick Bullock and his partner Justin Fritscher will be tackling their first Gay Games as members of the DC Front Runners. Both will compete in the 5K and the half marathon.

“We do everything together and running is one of our passions. We are excited to see Europe for the first time and be with over 20 of our teammates from DC Front Runners,” Bullock says. “The Gay Games are a great opportunity to come together for healthy competition and meet athletes from all over the world.”

At the 2014 Gay Games in Cleveland, Logan Dawson competed with the Denver team in swimming. After moving to D.C., he joined the District of Columbia Aquatics Club in late 2017. His second Gay Games will be with his new teammates.

“I have bonded with my DCAC teammates and would feel like I was missing out if I wasn’t going with them to Paris,” says Dawson. “It’s neat to be at a sports event that is more than a swim meet and I look forward to meeting international athletes from other sports.”

Tim Murphy married Chris Walsh last month and both of them will be competing in their first Gay Games. They are members of Capital Tennis Association and will be playing singles, doubles and mixed doubles.

“We are looking forward to meeting people who have come from all over the world to play sports. It will be great to represent our country in the parade of athletes at the opening ceremonies,” Murphy says. “This is going to be part sports event and part honeymoon for us.”

Gay Games X: Paris 2018 will be held from Aug. 4-11.

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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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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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