Monday, 18 August 2014

From the Far Side of the Globe : East

From the cold climates of Alaska and Iceland we head east and somewhere a bit warmer. My criteria for the most easterly of the Gay Games medallists is the point furthest from the Greenwich Meridian along, or near, 180°E in the Pacific Ocean.

Several Pacific nations have sent teams to the Gay Games, most of them attending their nearest games held in Sydney in 2002. One island nation which straddles the 180° meridian is Fiji. They sent a team to Sydney but didn’t return home with any medals.

New Zealand is the country with the nearest land to the 180° meridian. As with my previous articles it has been difficult to ascertain for certain where medallists called home at the time of their medal win. Many athletes don’t live in the cities or towns in which they have membership to a sports club, for instance members of Team Wellington (based on North Island) may live over 50 miles away on South Island but official results only record their team name. So once again I’m looking at birthplaces or previous residences.

The two main cities on North Island, Wellington and Auckland, have both sent many athletes to the Gay Games. As it happens they are on almost identical degrees of longitude (Auckland 174° 44’ E; Wellington 174° 46’ E), and they include such varied individuals as the partner of the Mayor of Kapiti, the grandson of an All Blacks rugby player, and the same-sex marriage campaigner who got arrested.

But I need to look further east than either city if I want to find the most easterly Gay Games medallist. I’ve chosen to name three of these briefly, all of whom have lived beyond 176°E.

First of all is Kerry Stevens. Kerry was born in Dannevirke (176°E), a town in the south of North Island. He married in 1963 and moved to Nelson on South Island where he began working in the music industry at the South Island Organ Company. In 1994 he attended the Gay Games in New York and won 2 gold medals as part of the 4x100m relay team (with Ross Baxter, Ron Judd and Berend Westera). He also won an individual silver in the 100m backstroke and a bronze in the 100m breaststroke.

More recently Kerry has been a broadcaster and executive producer at radio New Zealand where he presented mainly musical programmes and interviews. His interest in music is also reflected in his membership of Gay and Lesbian Singers in Auckland.

Just a little further east of Kerry’s home town of Dannevirke is the city of Hastings (176° 51’ E) on the eastern coast of North Island. This is the hometown of a medallist who competes in a sport that isn’t in the Olympics – tenpin bowling.

Dion Leslie has made tenpin bowling his career. He had been playing bowls since he was a teenager, and in 2002, at the age of 21, entered the bowling competition at the Sydney Gay Games. He came away with a bronze medal.

Dion moved to Wellington to study commerce and administration, something which he combined with his love of bowling by working in a bowling centre in Porirua. In 1999 he became general manager of the Strike Entertainment Centre in Lower Hutt, Wellington. This meant he was in the perfect place to host the bowling competition for the 2nd Asia-Pacific Outgames held in Wellington in 2011. He even found time to enter the competition himself, winning a silver medal in the men’s doubles contest.

Dion’s Strike Entertainment bowling alley also hosted a World Record. In 2002 Dion organised a record attempt at the world’s longest continuous game of tenpin bowling. The bowler was Stuart Ripley, and he succeeded in breaking the record by bowling for 122 hours!

Now we come to the athlete who is the medallist to come from the most easterly point on the globe. Her name is Rae Torrie.

The most easterly town on North Island is Gisborne (178°E). This where Rae was born, and like many she went to Wellington to university. She studied history and went on to study Social Sector Evaluation Research at Massey University. Most of her work has involved evaluating employment and pay policies in local and national government, but her early work involved evaluation of equal employment policies and Maori affairs.

In 2002 Rae entered the dance competition at the Sydney Gay Games. Her dance partner was Ros Bignell and they won a silver medal in the Latin category.

Now that we have gone as far east as we can go we head west next time. Rather than keep going west and end up almost back where we started we go to the far side of the globe and look for our most westerly Gay Games medallist on the Greenwich Meridian.

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