Saturday, 28 April 2012

Olympic Countdown

The Los Angeles Olympics of 1984 sees the first significant presence of lgbt athletes, albeit none of them “out” at the time. From 1984 the number of lgbt athletes would increase until it peaked in Sydney in 2000. Because of this it will be difficult to include full details of all of them in my posts. I’ll give as many of them a name check as possible, but I’ll concentrate on medal winners and significant events.

After the boycott of the Moscow Olympics its no surprise that Communist countries boycotted the LA games. It’s well-known that eastern European countries gave athletes performance-enhancing drugs purely to win more medals and promote “healthy Socialist” propaganda. Most of the drugs were steroids and testosterone given to female athletes, most of them unaware they were being drugged.

In 2000 the president of the East German Olympic Committee was put on trial with others, and they were convicted of “intentional bodily harm of athletes”. One of these was shot putter Heidi Krieger. By the time of the trial he had undergone gender reassignment and was known as Andreas Krieger. Even though he had questions about his sexuality as a child he firmly believes that being pumped full of steroids denied him the right to discover his sexuality naturally. Despite not appearing at the Olympics because of the LA boycott Krieger won the European Championships in 1986 and the gold medal forms part of the Heidi Krieger Medal, awarded each year to the German athlete who has done most to promote anti-doping in sport.

In Los Angeles 2 American lgbt athletes became Olympic champions. Harriet “Holly” Metcalf was a member of the US rowing 8 team that won gold, and Greg Louganis returned to be the first diver since 1928 to win gold in both springboard and platform.

A member of the US swimming team, Bruce Hayes, won his first titles the year before at the US Championships, the World University Games and the Pan American Games. In the Olympic 4x200m freestyle relay Bruce found himself swimming the same final leg against the legendary German swimmer Michael Gross. The US were ahead as Hayes and Gross entered the water. Gross overtook before the final turn. Bruce’s trademark fast finish put them equal at the finish line. In a world record time, and only 0.04 seconds ahead, Bruce Hayes won gold for the US team. “It was an honourable defeat”, said Gross.

Bruce has continued to swim in US Masters competitions, and in 1994 became the first Olympic champion to become Gay Games champion. Since then he has won a further 15 Gay Games gold medals, competing at every games since 1994. He also kept his Olympics connection by being Assistant Competition Manager for Swimming at the Atlanta 1996 games. In 2002 Bruce was appointed as one of the inaugural Gay Games Ambassadors.

On track and field in 1984 we have the first lgbt couple to compete at the same games, West German athletes Sabine Braun and Beate Peters. Neither won a medal but did win diplomas – 6th place heptathlon diploma for Sabine and 7th place javelin for Beate. This was the first of 5 Olympic appearances at the summer games by Sabine, the most by any female lgbt competing athlete.

For the 1984 games tennis made its return to the Olympics, the first time since 1928, as a demonstration sport. Several top tennis players competed, including Gigi Fernández.

Finally, one gay athlete made his Olympic debut in 1984. Equestrian Robert Dover, a member of the US dressage team, has completed in 6 Olympics, the most by any lgbt athlete.

Since this article first appeared a lot of new information has been revealed and new research has been carried out. This article should be seen as a mere snapshot of the information known at the date of its publication. Several facts may now be outdated or inaccurate. 

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