A singular experience can sometimes change your life path. One lone swimmer from Israel traveled to Cleveland, Ohio, to compete in the 2014 Gay Games. He was part of a group of eight Israeli athletes who made the trip halfway around the world to participate.
Exhilarated and wanting to share his experience, he returned to Tel Aviv and became involved in creating an organized LGBT sports community. When the Washington Blade caught up with Sagi Krispin in 2016, the TLV LGBT Sports Club was already a thriving entity.
Krispin wasn’t done though. In 2017, the Tel Aviv Games launched as a multisport biennial LGBT sports tournament. The first iteration included basketball, soccer, swimming and tennis.
The LGBT sports community in Tel Aviv has continued to grow and at the 2018 Paris Gay Games, 52 Israeli athletes competed in six sports including 22 participants in swimming.
The second edition of the Tel Aviv Games will be held from March 27-30 with road running, volleyball and same-sex dance being added to the previous roster of sports.
“This year’s TAG will be bigger, more visible and prouder,” says Krispin, head of the organizing committee. “There will also be more involvement from the local community outside of the sports community.”
With that in mind, they added venues around town and a Pride Run 5K/10K that will be open to anyone. Proceeds from the Pride Run will benefit a Tel Aviv youth organization, Israel Gay Youth.
“The people here are very committed to TAG,” Krispin says. “We have partnered with City Hall and will be hosting events there.”
Europe has a series of LGBT multisport events that are held in cities such as Vienna, Prague and Stuttgart. Most of the participants at the first Tel Aviv Games came from European countries.
“This time we are also expecting athletes from North America, Australia and Asia,” Krispin says. “We have a selling point that isn’t found in the other host cities. Europe will still be recovering from winter, but you can go to the beach in Tel Aviv in March. We are excited to welcome everyone.”
Never one to pass up an opportunity for sports and travel, the District of Columbia Aquatics Club is sending five swimmers to compete in the Tel Aviv Games.
John Tustin joined D.C. Aquatics in 2009 and has traveled extensively with the team. The competition in Tel Aviv will be a segue to stops in Jordan, Jerusalem and the Dead Sea.
“I have always wanted to go to these places as a tourist and it is nice to have a structured activity to go along with travel,” Tustin says. “The competition along with the events and parties gives you the opportunity to eat and hangout with locals. It makes it much easier to experience how they live.”
Tustin will be stopping in Jordan on his own before the competition and then will be joined by his teammates for the trips to Jerusalem and the Dead Sea.
“I am fine traveling independent, but it is nice combining travel with friends and teammates,” Tustin says. “Our common interest in swimming will enrich the experience of my vacation. I am excited to see the history of the area along with modern Israel.”