Tuesday 30 July 2013

On Track to the Outgames - Part 10

Tomorrow the 3rd  World Outgames begins in Antwerp with the lgbt and human rights conference. To celebrate I’m continuing my history of the Outgames with a concluding look at the 2nd North American Outgames of Vancouver 2011 and some of the sporting events.

Space restricts me covering all of the sports but here are a handful of notable performances. Dean Koga, who was injured in the bomb attack at the Copenhagen Outgames in 2009, won 6 gold medals in his age group on the running track. The oldest athlete at the games, 86-year-old Len Trisch, won 2 golds on the track, knocking 3 seconds off the world record in the 100m in his age group.

One trans athlete deserves a mention. A. J. Stachelek of the New York FrontRunners club won 6 gold medals (with a bronze to go with them, I think A. J. won the most medals by an individual at these games). A. J. was competing internationally for the last time as a woman, and her medal haul and other achievements made her the New York FrontRunner’s Athlete of the Year. On New Years’ Day 2012 he became registered as a male athlete. Since transitioning A. J. has become more confident as a person and as an athlete, and has since competed in triathlon and Ironman competitions. And behind every successful athlete is a supporting partner, in this case his girlfriend Rachel Cutler, who won gold in 10k run ahead of A. J.’s bronze.

The women’s 15-23 handicap golf tournament was won by Corrine Hunt. How’s this for a unique sporting moment – Corinne was presented with the gold medal, which was designed by … Corrine Hunt! A First Nation artist and designer, Corrine’s work often incorporates native design and symbolism. Her medal for the Outgames included elements of the Outgames theme – land (wolf’s head), sea (orca) and sky (raven).

Corrine is no stranger to sporting medal design. She designed the medals for the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics as well. Below are both medal designs (I plan to cover the Olympic medal in more detail next year).

I’ll end by taking you back to the start of the Vancouver Outgames. Lgbt sport doesn’t really have anything as iconic as the Olympic torch. What it does have, however, is the Rainbow Pride flag. Like the Olympic flag this has been raised at all the lgbt sports festival around the world. And like a torch it can be carried aloft with pride.

One pre-games run involving the Rainbow flag has taken place prior to some of the Gay Games – the Rainbow Run – created and organised by Brent Nicholson Earle. For the Vancouver Outgames a new relay was created called “Running of the Flags”. Flag-running is an age-old tradition in many countries around the world. The relay was divided into 3 geographical sections, each one representing part of the Outgames theme of “land, sea and sky”.

Each leg of the relay consisted of 3 runners carrying 3 flags – the Rainbow Pride flag, the Vancouver Outgames flag, and the flag of the Gay and Lesbian International Sport Association (North America chapter). The first runners assembled at Vancouver’s city hall. There the city’s mayor Gregor Robertson officially proclaimed the beginning of Pride Week. After the raising of the main Rainbow flag and a welcome and rallying call from the First Nations the first runners were whisked away to their starting points. The land team went to Simon Fraser University, the sea team to the University of British Colombia, and the sky team to the top of Whistler Mountain.

Over 70 runners carried the 9 flags from their starting points back into Vancouver to converge on the art gallery. Using various methods of transport – train, helicopter, bike, and foot – the Running of the Flags provided a spectacular sight as they passed through the city streets.

At the art gallery all the flags and runners congregated to herald the start of the official opening ceremony. The climax of the ceremony was the lighting of the cauldron. This was performed by the youngest and oldest athletes at the games – the above-mentioned Len Trisch, and a 15-year-old softball player (whose name I cannot find, perhaps someone out there does, let me know).

I began these two articles on the Vancouver Outgames by mentioning sporting legacy. I’ll end with a legacy from the Outgames. In 2011 at the 2nd Asia Pacific Outgames in New Zealand a fund was set up to help smaller nations and communities within that region to create their own sport and human rights festivals. The first of these was held in 2012 – the 1st Philippine Outgames. My next “On Track to the Outgames” article will feature that event, and will be posted during the run of the 3rd World Outgames in August.

LEFT : One of Corrine's several hundred individual designs for the Vancouver 2010
Olympic Games medals. RIGHT: Corrine's design for the Vancouver 2011 Outgames.

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