Thursday 20 September 2012

London 2012 Review

Since this article first appeared a lot of new information has been revealed and new research has been carried out. This article should be seen as a mere snapshot of the information known at the date of its publication. Several facts may now be outdated or inaccurate.

With the Olympic fever dying down it is time to put the London 2012 games into historical perspective and conclude my Olympic series officially.

These were the games in which the global lgbt community really got behind the openly lgbt athletes and followed every moment of their competitions. In particular top marks go to Cyd Zeigler and Jim Buzinski at Outsports for their daily updates. Over the two games there were 25 lgbt athletes and 7 more in official capacities. It was also the summer games with the fewest lgbt medals since Seoul 1988. This is a deceptive figure, as the number is likely to increase over time as it obviously doesn’t include athletes who haven’t come out.

The first medal of the games for Team LGBT was won by “veteran” Olympic cyclist Judith Arndt in her 5th games. She won silver in the road race time trial.

Top of the medal table by country was the Netherlands. They had 4 medallists in the women’s hockey team – Marilyn Agliotti, Kim Lammers, and the life partners Carlien Dirkse van den Heuvel and Maartje Pauman. Carlien and Maartje scored the only goals in the final.

Lesbian football (soccer) coach Pia Sundhage saw her US team win gold in the women’s competition. Megan Rapinoe, who came out officially just before the games after months of rumour, scored twice in the semi-final. A reserve player also present at the games, and who came out shortly after the end of the Paralympics, was Lori Lindsey.

Also winning gold for Team USA was Seimone Augustus in women’s basketball. The gold medal was virtually a foregone conclusion having headed their group, though their semi-final match against Australia, in which Seimone scored 8 points, was very close.

The first openly gay male medallist was British equestrian Carl Hester who won gold in team dressage. This was Carl’s first medal in 4 Olympic games and at the age of 45 is the oldest lgbt Olympian to become champion. He also earned a 5th place diploma in the individual dressage.

Winning bronze in the team dressage was Dutch rider Edward Gal. This was his first Olympics, though his partner, Hans Peter Minderhoud (who was present in the competitor’s enclosure) had competed in Beijing. And did I see the BBC catch the first gay kiss of the Olympics during the individual dressage competition?

Controversy surrounding Caster Semenya’s gender over the past couple of years still may have played a part in her only winning silver in the 800m when she was tipped to win gold. Perhaps winning would have brought her critics out of the woodwork to hound her again. But it wasn’t all disappointment because Caster had the honour of carrying the South African flag into the stadium at the opening ceremony.

The final medal to mention was won by US tennis player Lisa Raymond in the mixed doubles. She was No. 1 seed in the women’s doubles but finished 4th.

My eye for unusual facts was immediately alerted at the men’s 10m platform diving semi-final - there were 4 openly gay diving champions there! All of them there with a purpose. They were Matthew Mitcham (defending Olympic champion), Greg Louganis (former Olympic champion, mentor to the US team), Scott Cranham (Gay Games champion and Olympian, acting as High Performance Director to the Canadians), and Simon Latimer (Outgames champion, judge for rounds 4-6). Other sports may have had more lgbt participants and coaches, but all 4 men represented 4 different nations in 4 different capacities at the same event.

At the Paralympic Games there were 2 openly lgbt athletes – Lee Pearson and Claire Harvey. Lee was hoping to become one of the greatest Paralympians by winning his 12th equestrian gold medal. He only gained a 10th gold in the team dressage. His other medals were a silver in the individual dressage and bronze in the freestyle. Despite this, Lee wasn’t disappointed and is already looking ahead to Rio. Lee’s gold, with Carl’s (above), meant that London 2012 holds a unique record, with 2 gay men winning the same medal, for the same country, in the same event, at both the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Claire Harvey was a member of GB’s sitting volleyball team. They lost the 7th place match to Japan, finishing the competition in 8th place.

And research hasn’t stopped. Several weeks ago I came across the first lgbt Paralympian who competed 8 years before Lee Pearson, whom I had previously reported as the first. Her name is Kathleen Rose Winter, an American who competed in 3 Paralympic Games. I am still researching her life story and hope to include Kathleen in a post during Black History Month in October.

There is less than a year to recover before the next big international sporting event for lgbt athletes – the third World Outgames in Antwerp. And the year after that we celebrate the Sochi Winter Olympics, the Cleveland and Akron Gay Games and the Glasgow Commonwealth Games all in 2014. Can’t wait!

Me at the Paralympics just after Pistorius lost the 200m.
Photo taken by my brother Colin.

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