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Blade All Stars spotlight: ballroom dancers enjoy training, competition

Duo brought home three medals from ’18 Paris Gay Games



competitive dancesport, gay news, Washington Blade
Allesandro Ghidini (left) and Craig Louisy are off to a strong start a year into their training. (Photo courtesy Ghidini/Louisy)

This week in the Washington Blade’s All Star series, we shine a spotlight on two LGBT athletes who are navigating their way through the costumes, music and theatrics of competitive dancesport.

Growing up in Milan, Italy, Alessandro Ghidini was drawn to sports that involved water. He competed in swimming and water polo before joining the varsity Olympic kayaking team at the University of Milan.

His studies to become an obstetrician-gynecologist brought him to the United States where he attended Yale for five years along with a fellowship in New York.

After arriving in D.C. in 1994, he returned to the water as a rower with the D.C. Strokes Rowing Club. Looking for something new, Ghidini joined a group that gave instruction in American Style ballroom dancing.

“It was a good match for me. As a physician, I am trained for perfection and polish,” Ghidini says. “Dancing takes coordination, balance and an awareness of muscles. It’s very meticulous as is stitching up a patient.”

Two years ago, Ghidini met coach Terry Chasteen of DanceSport Dupont Circle and began training in the International Style of ballroom dancing. A plan was formed to compete in the 2018 Gay Games in Paris, but finding the right partner proved difficult.

Chasteen was line dancing with the D.C. Rawhides and spotted a possibility in the form of Craig Louisy. A partnership was formed with all dance training pointed toward competing in Paris.

Louisy grew up in Saint Lucia and played multiple sports including tennis, karate, basketball and volleyball. Looking for a better life and education, he arrived in the D.C. area to attend Howard University. After medical school at Temple University in Philadelphia, he returned to the area for stints at Washington Hospital Center and the University of Maryland at Baltimore.

Louisy accepted a position as a locum tenens surgeon (traveling surgeon) and spent the next several years traveling through Maryland, South Dakota, Hawaii and North Carolina.

“Traveling so much made me feel disconnected. I couldn’t forge any lasting friendships and I knew it was time to establish some roots,” Louisy says. “When I returned to D.C., I joined the D.C. Rawhides. I always imagined myself on a stage, but my medical career took me in a different direction. The thoughts of dancing and performing were still a part of me.”

Ghidini and Louisy secured their dance steps and began the long hours of training to perfect them under Chasteen’s watchful eye. Not all dancesport competitions accept same-sex couples, so they selected welcoming competitions in Bethesda, New York and Columbus as tune-ups for Paris.

“The competitions were fun, challenging and brought out my competitive side,” Louisy says. “DanceSport has dusted off different parts of my brain and has given me the exact thing I was looking for — social interaction and fun.”

The pair arrived at the Paris Gay Games last August ready for their moment to perform on the international stage. They were entered in the Standard (waltz, tango and quick-step) and Latin (rhumba, jive and cha cha) categories.

When the dust settled, they had captured two silver medals and a bronze.

“It was such a sense of accomplishment after a year of practicing our steps and thinking about shoes, costumes and details,” Ghidini says. “The parade of athletes at the Gay Games opening ceremonies blew me away. Seeing athletes from anti-LGBT countries such as Cuba and Algeria brought tears to my eyes. I had family members there, including my husband, cheering us on. We were interviewed by French television stations and I felt so welcome.”

Louisy agrees. 

“It was everything I imagined it would be — an international convening of the LGBT community. It was a very positive environment and you could feel the energy of it,” Louisy says. “It made me proud to be gay and athletic; like I was exposing it to the world that our community comes in all shapes, sizes and colors. It felt important, like I was doing my civic duty.”

With such a great experience behind them, the pair are now training for the upcoming EuroGames in July in Rome.

“After losing our virginity in regard to competing in international sports, I am totally game to keep this going,” Ghidini says. “But it takes two to tango.”

Louisy says he’s in it for the long haul. 

“We made a lot of friends from other countries and learned techniques from each other,” Louisy says. “It has given me structure and resulted in only positive things.”

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Las Vegas Raiders head coach resigns after homophobic emails surface

Discovery made during misconduct investigation into the Washington Football Team



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



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



Tom Daley (Photo by 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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