Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Medal Quest - 200 Days to Ohio

It’s another great year for international lgbt sport. As well as the Olympics and Paralympics there’s the Commonwealth Games, the Summer Youth Olympics, and the Asian Games. All of these will have lgbt athletes, but the games which are of special interest this year are the Gay Games in Cleveland and Akron and the Asia-Pacific Outgames in Darwin.

I’ll be looking at both the Gay Games and the Outgames in the run-up to these events in this new mini-series of articles called Medal Quest. At various stages in the run-up to each games I’ll look at one particular theme, something all lgbt athletes strive to be – medal winners.

With today marking 200 days to go before the start of Gay Games IX in Ohio I’ll begin this Medal Quest by looking at the Top Ten athletes who have won the most Gay Games medals.

There are 2 ways you can calculate top medal lists. First, as her in the UK, you count the number of gold medals first, then silver, then bronze. Other countries count all the medals together, which often leads to a situation where an athlete who comes 3rd twice and wins 2 bronze medals comes higher than a champion who wins 1 gold. I’ll be using the UK method in my Medal Quest series.

Swimming has always been the most popular sport at both the Gay and Outgames with many swimmer competing in several different races. The age categories, like the ones used in international Masters Swimming competitions, also means that a swimmer can compete throughout his/her active life.

Nowhere can this be better illustrated than in the Top Ten Gay Games medallists who are all swimmers from the USA. They are listed below in reverse order. My database is far from complete for the early games, so these statistics may well need revising after further research. I welcome any extra information to help produce the most definitive list of medallists by the summer.

10.       MICHAEL MEALIFFE (b.1940)
22 gold, 3 silver
The elder one of twins (by 15 minutes) Michael was a successful competitive swimmer in high school and college. He set many age-group records, including several Junior Olympic records. He returned to competition in 1990 at the Vancouver Gay Games, and also competed in 1994 and 2002. In 2008 Michael married Dean Pitchford, Oscar-winning songwriter of “Fame” and song/screenwriter of “Footloose”.

9.         MICHAEL DIVELY (b.1938)
            23 gold, 6 silver, 5 bronze
Philanthropist, art-collector, and former Michigan State representative and law professor, Michael returned to competitive swimming in 1974, though his first Gay Games were the 4th in New York in 1994. He has competed in every games since then, and just 5 months ago became the oldest gold medallist at the Canakkale Straits competition in Turkey.

8.         MICHELE HUYETTE (b.1968)
            24 gold, 6 silver, 2 bronze
Michele won her first Gay Games swimming medal in New York in 1994 and has won gold medals at the last 3 Gay Games. It was a fellow Pompano Beach Patrol lifeguard who persuaded her to take up triathlon in 1996, and she won the triathlon silver medal for her age-group at the Gay Games in Sydney 2002.

7.         NEILL WILLIAMS (b.1968)
            26 gold, 8 silver, 3 bronze
The youngest person on this list, Neill has been swimming competitively since winning a swimming scholarship to America University. He considers his first best year as 1994, the year he won his first Gay Games gold in New York. He has competed and won gold in all Gay Games since.

6.         PHILIP JOHNSON (b.1925)
            27 gold
The oldest person on this list. US World War II veteran Phil Johnson has often been the oldest competitor in his events at the Gay Games, his first being the second in San Francisco in 1986. He has been an activist since the pioneer years of gay rights, and founded the Phil John (originally the Dallas Gay) Historic Archives.

5.         MARY COFFEY (b.1939)
            27 gold, 6 bronze
Retired high school teacher Mary Coffey won her first Gay Games medal in San Francisco in 1986. She has medalled at every Gay Games up to Chicago 2006.

4.         M. ELLEN (MELON) DASH
            29 gold, 3 silver, 2 bronze
M. Ellen (usually referred to as “Melon”) has been a competitive swimmer all her life and has been a swimming teacher since her undergraduate days. She has competed in 6 Gay Games since the very first one in 1982. In 1983 she developed a highly successful teaching method for people afraid of the water, which she still teaches.

3.         JAMES BALLARD (b.1957)
            30 gold, 5 silver, 1 bronze
Being diagnosed HIV+ in the early days of prejudice James Ballard entered his first Gay Games in 1994 less than 3 months after recovering from hepatitis to win the first of his many medals and Masters world records. He has competed at every Gay Games (except Chicago 2006) since.

2.         JESSICA SEATON (b.1954)
            33 gold, 8 silver, 3 bronze
Dr. Seaton is a chiropractic orthopaedist by profession, and is prominent in health and medical advice circles in swimming. Jessica has served on many swimming committees, including the International Gay and Lesbian Aquatics and the Federation of Gay Games. Her first medal was in New York in 1994, and she has won many medals at every games since. jessica has a Medal of Honour from the Federation of Gay Games in recognition of her contribution to athletics and service as a volunteer in lgbt sport.

1.         JAN LEVINRAD (b.1947)
            35 gold, 6 silver, 2 bronze
South Africa-born Jan returned to swimming after an injury stopped her from skiing. She joined West Hollywood Aquatics in 1993 and was persuaded by Jessica Seaton (above), among others, to compete in her first Gay Games in New York in 1994. Jan has competed in every Gay Games since then.

1 comment:

  1. Congrats Aunty Jan!! You've won more Golds than anyone else! Incredible!! We are very proud of u