Saturday 7 July 2012

Olympic Countdown

The Olympics returned home in 2004 when they were held in Greece. These were the first games where the lgbt media began to list lgbt athletes. Society had at last started to get used to the idea that there are lgbt athletes and the lgbt media was now proud to point some of them out.

There was only one identified lgbt athlete from the home nation, tennis player Eleni Daniilidou. She debuted in Sydney in 2000 at the age of 17. Eleni had reached No. 22 ranking in the world in 2002 but never reached higher, despite having several championship wins.

As in 2000 equestrianism tops both the lgbt athlete and medal lists. And once again British Paralympian Lee Pearson tops the individual table defending all 3 golds he won in 2000. Three American riders won bronze. Robert Dover, in his 6th and last Olympics, won bronze in the mixed team 3-day event with Guenther Seidel. Darren Chiacchia won bronze in the mixed team 3-day event. This was Darren’s first Olympics and a series of major setbacks prevented him from returning.

First was a horrific accident 6 months before the Beijing Olympics when Darren’s horse tumbled over a fence and fell on top of him. With multiple fractures, a punctured lung and severe head injuries Darren was in a coma and on a breathing ventilator for about a week. His doctors didn’t envisage a full recovery. But Darren stunned them by recovering enough to climb back on a horse 2 months later. With steely determination Darren returned to competitive riding in 2009.

Then in 2010 Darren’s partner had him arrested for not telling him he was HIV+. In Florida, where they lived, this was illegal. Very quickly this “outing” turned into a bigger personal setback as inaccurate media reports of him being “the Olympian who gave a man AIDS” lost him thousands of dollars in endorsements and business deals. Eventually all charges against Darren were dismissed in September 2011.

The other equestrian athletes were Carl Hester (GB) and Blyth Tait (New Zealand).

Second to equestrianism comes tennis with 6 lgbt players, all except the above-mentioned Eleni Daniilidou were Wimbledon champions – Conchita Martínez, Amélie Mauresmo, Rennae Stubbs, Lisa Raymond, and (in her only Olympic appearance) Martina Navratilova, at 47 the oldest ever lgbt competitor.

Amélie knocked out Conchita in the first round and went on to win the silver medal. But Conchita went on to win a silver in the doubles tournament. One-time life partners and Wimbledon doubles champions Rennae Stubbs and Lisa Raymond returned, but because Lisa is American and Rennae is Australian they couldn’t compete together. They didn’t even get to play against each other. Both Rennae and Lisa (with her doubles partner Martina) went out in the quarter-finals.

Gold medals were won by the life-partners Lotte Kiaerskou and Rikke Skov who played in the Danish women’s handball team.

Diving also produced 2 medals, both won by the Australian diver Mat Helm – a silver and bronze. Also in the pool were paralympic swimmers from Canada coached by former Olympian Rafael Polinario, including his daughter Anne who won 2 gold medals and 3 silver.

Sheryl Swoopes won her 3rd successive gold medal with the American women’s basketball team, becoming the top female gold medallist.

The remaining medallists of 2004 were German fencer Imke Duplitzer (silver) and Dutch swimmer Johan Kenkhuis (silver). Top German cyclist Judith Arndt also won silver – and a fine for giving the finger sign as she crossed the finish line as a protest against her partner Petra Rossner being dropped from the team.

Nadine Angerer returned as substitute goalkeeper for Germany’s women’s football team, but again missed out on her team’s bronze medal by not playing in the bronze medal match. They beat the Swedish team, on which Victoria Svensson played.

Australian beach volleyball star and former Olympic champion Natalie Cook lost to Brazil in the semi-finals. Another beach volleyball player, South African Leigh-Ann Naidoo, unfortunately lost all her matches.

Finally, judoka Edinanci Silva returned but didn’t improve on her placing from 2000, and Britain’s Rob Newton (from my home county Nottinghamshire) finished 7th in his heat of the hurdles.

One athlete who didn’t make Athens was Hungarian wrestler Grego Szabo. Just before the games his team managers discovered he had “performed” in many gay videos and banned him for life!

For more, official, information on the Games go to

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