Thursday, 7 June 2012

Olympic Countdown

The 1996 Atlanta Olympics currently holds the record for the most lgbt medals – 6 gold, 4 silver and 11 bronze. Of these only 4 were individual medallists – tennis player Jana Novotná (bronze), swimmer Daniel Kowalski (2 silver, 1 bronze), and cyclists Michelle Ferris (silver) and Judith Arndt (bronze).

Since her last Olympic appearance Jana gained some notoriety by crying on the shoulder of the Duchess of Kent when she lost the 1993 Wimbledon final. Also in tennis Gigi Fernandez won her 2nd gold medal in women’s doubles. Conchita Martínez, having been beaten by Gigi in the semi-final, won bronze by winning in the 3rd place match.

Australian Daniel Kowalski, in his Olympic debut, became the first swimmer in 94 years to win medals in 3 distances - 200m, 400m and 1500m freestyle.

The remaining medallists played in team or pairs sports. In fact team players formed the majority of lgbt athletes in Atlanta (this includes some who also competed individually, e.g. cycling, swimming and equestrianism).

The first team sport is hockey. In the 1992 Barcelona games Alyson Annan played in the Australian national team. They also won the World Hockey Cup in 1994 and the Australian Team of the Year award 3 years running. At the Atlanta games Alyson and the team won gold. Winning bronze in women’s hockey was the Netherlands, of which Alyson’s future life partner Carole Thate was a member.

Women’s football made its debut in Atlanta, providing 3 players and 1 reserve – the most in one sport that year. Pia Sundhage played for Sweden, but Norway had 2 players, Bente Nordby and Linda Medalen. They beat Brazil to win bronze. Saskia Webber was a reserve member of the US team.

Two members of the gold-medal-winning Danish handball team share the same surname but are not related – Anja and Camilla Andersen. Both have handball in their genes with their parents being national handball players, Anja’s father also being an Olympian.

Sheryl Swoopes won the first of her 3 consecutive Olympic gold medals with the US basketball team.

The diving pool provided 3 athletes – Americans Patrick Jeffrey and David Pichler, and Swede Jimmy Sjödin. At the time David was embroiled in a long-running disagreement with the national diving coach over his partner Steve. Accusations of interference in David’s training against both sides resulted in Steve receiving a restraining order. Whether this affected David’s diving or not is difficult to tell, but he only managed 6th place in the final.

Patrick Jeffrey finished 3 places behind David. When he retired from competition in 1999 Patrick became the diving coach to the national team, coaching David Pichler for the 2000 Olympics.

Blyth Tait, the New Zealand equestrian rider, won 2 medals, an individual gold and a team bronze. The remaining medals were all team bronzes – Natalie Cook (volleyball, Australia), and US equestrians Robert Dover and Guenter Seidel.

Brazilian judoka Edinanci Silva was one of 7 to fail the gender test, but they were all allowed to compete as women. Edinanci was born with both male and female sexual organs and had always felt more female than male. Then, just 3 months before the 1996 Olympics, she completed surgery to become female. Even though Edinanci is one of those women who have a male Y chromosome (see my post on gender testing) the IOC accepted her as female and she has competed at every Olympics since.

I can’t leave the Atlanta Olympics without a mention of the bomb attacks. Even though the bombing of the lesbian bar the Otherside Lounge in Atlanta occurred 7 months after the Olympics had finished, the same bomber was responsible. It was a hate campaign that claimed the deaths of 2 people.

On 27th July 1996 a bomb exploded in Centennial Olympic Park killing one and injuring 111 others. The following January an abortion clinic was targeted, and after the Otherside Lounge another abortion clinic was bombed. The bomber was a member of a Christian extremist sect with an anti-abortion and anti-gay agenda.

In 5 days time I’ll return to the Olympics proper and look at the effects another tragedy, a natural one, had on one sport in particular.

For more, official, information on the Games go to  

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