Friday, 21 March 2014

Medal Quest - Ladies First, and Second, and Third

Things are starting to hot up in Australia as athletes from around the world are making final preparations to attend the 3rd Asia-Pacific Outgames in Darwin in 50 days time. To celebrate Women’s History Month here is a selection of female medal winners from the previous Asia-Pacific games.

Among the athletes from the Asia Pacific region who have made a mark internationally is Kate Rowe from Sydney, Australia. Kate also illustrates the importance of sport over rivalry with the Gay Games as for a long time she has been involved with several committees of the Federation of Gay Games and competed at both Outgames and Gay Games.

Kate Rowe reminds me of what I could have achieved it I had the same determination. We both took up exercise seriously at the age of 32. I gave up in 2005 for personal reasons, but Kate has already won several marathons and cycling races. Kate’s passion for sport almost came to a halt when she hit a duck while cycling through a park and came off her bike. The accident damaged her hip and she needed hip replacement surgery.

After surgery in 2010 Kate jumped back into the saddle to begin training for more competitions, including several international triathlon and Ironman contests. And Kate is at an age when others are beginning to think about slowing down! At the Asia-Pacific Outgames Kate won a gold medal in the 5 km run.

Unlike the Olympics coaches and trainers don’t often, if ever, get the chance to compete as well. Events like international Masters competitions, the Outgames and Gay Games give them the opportunity to compete.  A popular competition at lgbt sports events is dance. One dance coach and teacher who has won many medals at the Outgames and Gay Games is Zoe Balfour. Originally from Wales Zoe teaches dance in San Francisco and has coached several same-sex couples to medals wins also. With her dance partner Citibria Phillips Zoe won the Women’s North America Ballroom Championships 5 years in a row.

Like the Gay Games, the Outgames has always been an inclusive event. It could be argued that more non-lgbt athletes compete at the Outgames than the Gay Games. One straight swimmer, Kirsten Cameron, jumped at the chance to compete at the 2nd Asia-Pacific Outgames in New Zealand in 2011 and broke 3 world records and won 6 gold medals in one week. Kirsten didn’t start swimming competitively until 2003 and had represented New Zealand since 2006. It was the competition which attracted her to the Outgames, not the sexuality of her rival swimmers and, like many other straight athletes, found varying degrees of reaction from friends and colleagues to her participation.

Finally, and with a topical twist, there’s Jills Angus Burney and Deborah Hamby. Jills won a triathlon gold and Deborah won several swimming and diving medals at the 2nd Asia-Pacific Outgames. Eleven months ago New Zealand passed a law legalising same-sex marriage, one of the hottest topics around the world. Both Jills and Deborah appeared at a select committee when the bill was running through parliament, speaking n favour of the bill. On 17th April 2013 they watched parliament vote 77 to 44 in favour and Jills and Deborah announced their engagement (more about same-sex marriages around the world next week). Jills, a barrister by profession, is also a world record holder, but not in sport. In 1988 she set a world record by shearing 541 lambs in 9 hours! The record stood until 2007.

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