Thursday, 21 August 2014

From the Far Side of the Globe : West

Living 50 miles west of the Greenwich Meridian my final hunt for the most far-flung of Gay Games medallists brings me “back home”, taking the meridian as my most westerly point.

It’s a pity that the only out gay UK soccer player, Liam Davis, hasn’t competed at the Gay Games. No-one gets closer than him to the meridian. He plays for Gainsborough (0° 46’ W), where most of my family live and where I lived for a few years. Liam actually lives in the seaside town (and location of many happy childhood holidays) of Cleethorpes (0° exactly). With his partner he co-owns a café which is less than 1km from the meridian line.

The Greenwich Meridian passes through a handful of countries – the UK, France, Spain, Algeria, Mali, Burkina Faso, Ghana and Togo. These last 5 are all in Africa and are not known for their lgbt rights. However, both Ghana and Algeria have sent athletes to the Gay Games though none have won medals.

Which leaves us looking at the European nations, all highly represented in international sport. To be fair to all 3 countries I’ve nominated one athlete from each to represent their nation as a whole.

With France being the European country through which the meridian passes for the longest there are a large number of possible locations to find my nomination as the most westerly French medallist. My nomination is Pierre Huguet. Pierre, a history teacher, won a gold and 2 bronze medals in 3 relay teams at the 2010 Cologne Gay Games. He was living in Marseille at the time and ran with several international runners who teamed up at the contest. He also won an individual silver medal in the 300m steeplechase.

Pierre’s hometown in Niort (0° 27’ W) and he studied at the University of Poitiers (0° 20’ E) just across the meridian. Pierre is a committee member and co-webmaster of Frontrunners Marseille. He is also an honorary members of Glasgow Frontrunners, a club he visited in 2012 just after it was formed.

Surprisingly few Spanish athletes have won medals at the Gay Games. Some may have joined teams from other nations (e.g. if working or studying abroad). My nomination for the most westerly Spanish medallist is Natividad Pericot Roos. Her home town is San Vicent del Raspeig (0° 31’ W) and she works in Alicante (0° 28’ W). Natividad is another tenpin bowler (we had Dion Leslie of New Zealand last time). At the Cologne Gay Games in 2010 she picked up a gold medal with the women’s social team contest (with Caroline Lacharte and Stefanie Goss) and a bronze with Caroline in the women’s social team doubles.

With the meridian passing through London there are dozens of athletes to choose as the most westerly British medallist. I’ve nominated Simon Bostic. His life story deserves a little more attention as he has provided a legacy with has affected thousands and inspired millions.

In 1973 Simon was less than 2 years old and doctors said he wouldn’t see his 3rd birthday because he was born with CGD (chronic granulomautus disease), a condition where bone marrow can’t produce fully effective white blood cells. People with HIV will know the health implications of this. Any infection could be life-threatening. His older brother Andrew had died of CGD at the age of 2 and his own only hope of survival was a bone marrow transplant.

There was no bone marrow match in Simon’s family so a media appeal was launched and 50,000 people volunteered for testing. Only one was a match. The transplant took place on Friday 13th April 1973 and was a success. (On a future Friday 13th I’ll go into more detail.) Simon’s place in medical history is assured as the first survivor of a bone marrow transplant from a total stranger, a non-relative.

Since the transplant Simon has inspired hope in other bone marrow patients and has been instrumental in inspiring millions of people to register as possible donors. Until Simon’s successful operation the only real incentive to donate bone marrow was help to a close relative. Now anyone in the world could be considered a possible match.

At the Gay Games in Amsterdam in 1998 Simon won a silver medal in the Latin dance category with Alan Charles Wale. Today Simon works for Charity Challenge which organises expeditions to raise funds for various charities. He was head of Operations for the 2010 Comic Relief climb up Mount Kilimanjaro of which Martina Navratilova took part.

I hope you found this little series of articles interesting, but if I had to choose only one nomination from each of the four points they’d be the following:

North  Bjarni Snæbjörnsson, Sveinseyri, Iceland (65°N).
South  Mariah Crosland, McMurdo Station, Antarctic (77°S).
East    Rae Torrie, Gisborne, New Zealand (178°E).
West   Simon Bostic, London (0°).

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