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Representing New Zealand at the Games

Wed 19 Jul 2006 In: Events

Over 100 gay and lesbian athletes from New Zealand have headed to Chicago and Montreal this month to compete in two major international LGBT sporting and cultural events. Months of training squeezed in around ongoing work and family commitments, plus securing sponsorship and saving for the time away, will all pay off as Kiwi athletes join with over 24,000 others from all corners of the world, in the biggest sporting events both cities have seen for years. It's not all about winning, say competitors – it's also about feeling part of a global and inclusive community of gays and lesbians, and achieving to the best of one's own abilities. “The biggest thing about the Games is having the opportunity to develop your own self-confidence – experiencing that sense of achievement within a supportive friendly environment,” says Eve Tregerthan, of Porirua, who is competing in butterfly and freestyle swimming events in both Chicago's Gay Games and Montreal's Out Games. Tregerthan, 57, an artist and teacher, is travelling with her partner, 56-year-old public servant Karen Moses, another of New Zealand's swimmers who will compete in breaststroke events. Both were medallists in Sydney's Gay Games. Tregerthan achieved silver in race-walking, after training on a treadmill at home, with the heaters turned up, to simulate the warmer climes of Sydney in summer. Moses walked away with three silver medals in breaststroke. The two are old hands at the Gay Games. Moses' interest was first twigged as a spectator at the Vancouver Games in 1990. So after a successful stint in Sydney, nothing could keep the two from heading to North America this time around, for not one, but two separate Games. The acrimonious split, which saw the Games yanked from Montreal and given to Chicago, has served the LGBT sporting community well. With the birth of Montreal's first Out Games, and Chicago steaming ahead with the original Gay Games format, we now have two events that individually, have already outstripped Sydney in terms of the numbers of participants and spectators expected to attend. Both Games boast over 12,000 participants and for the city of Montreal, the Out Games will be the largest sporting and cultural event since hosting the 1976 Olympics. In fact, with over 250,000 people expected to descend on the French Canadian city for festivities, the world's first Out Games may yet beat the Olympics hands down, in terms of sheer numbers. Chicago's mayor Richard Daley, as honorary co-Chair of the Gay Games, is set to welcome over 60,000 people at the opening ceremony. “Chicago has a long history of having great sporting events… and gay, lesbian, transgender and bisexual Chicagoans have contributed substantially to the development of Chicago.” Not to be outdone, gay Mayor Benoît Labonté of the host Montreal district of Ste-Marie-St-Jacques, will compete in the golf tournament. This is a “grandiose project,” says Labonté, that will promote a “positive image of tolerance and inclusion to the entire world.” Moses looks forward to the cultural aspect of the Games. “The Games are really colourful – you really get to appreciate the differences within the global LGBT community, and the differences between people's cultural backgrounds.” Along with Tregerthan, they're looking forward to meeting other gays and lesbians, attending the “Women's Parties” in both cities, and taking in the arts and culture. “Some people go for the Conference, the arts and culture, and some go for the sports. There's a photography competition, plus art exhibitions, street performances and theatre.” But it's been tough going for the pair with swim training three times per week, and twice-weekly fitness training at the gym. Moses had to overcome her difficulty with freestyle. “I kept on getting mouthfuls of water. I'd come up for air, and just sink!” Both attribute their success, in part, to great coaching, along with sheer dedication. “It's certainly made our lives a whole lot busier.” Moses and Tregerthan are part of the Wellington-based GayBlacks, one of numerous New Zealand teams embarking for the Games. It's been a real boon securing sponsorship through pub charities for their uniforms, and they've held raffles for their New Zealand flag and team pins. Moses admits that the New Zealand teams have historically consisted of older gays and lesbians, and they grappled with how they could attract more young people to come along. “I think it's a financial thing,” she says, “and for team sports, it costs a lot of money to get them all over there.” One team that has struggled for sponsorship is the Auckland-based volleyball team, SpikeNZ. “We've raised some capital but nowhere near enough,” says organiser Hamilton Aitcheson. “We did really well in Sydney, coming fifth, beating all Australian teams who entered our division.” In spite of the financial difficulty, eight team members have left for Chicago. “We plan on winning gold this time around.” One young person determined to bring home a medal is Aucklander Simon Latimer, whose trip to the Games has been supported by GayN and the NZ AIDS Foundation. Latimer, 24, who will compete in the diving competition in Montreal, has represented New Zealand diving in international competitions, and has overcome a back injury that forced him retire while in training for the Commonwealth Games. “I'd say I'm in contention for a medal in the 3-metre springboard event,” he says, and is “pretty excited” about getting back to the diving board, competitively. He admits to feeling nervous due to the high calibre of the competition and the sheer size of the event. “Even in the biggest competitions I went to, there weren't 12,000 or so athletes. It's going to be an amazing time… so awesome to meet cool gay dudes and athletes from all over the globe!” Following a sponsowship request advertising campaign run free of charge on, Latimer secured sponsorship from two anonymous donors. And he is fronting a new AIDS Foundation safe-sex campaign in return for sponsorship, with fellow athlete and Gay Games six-times discus gold medallist Don Barclay. Latimer is grateful to the NZAF, and certainly didn't mind posing for “some sporty-type photos in Speedos” for a good cause. The New Zealand teams include athletes competing in a wide range of disciplines, from track and field and marathon to bridge, squash, dance, tennis and triathlon. Nigel Jeffcoat, organiser with the Wellington and South Island Gay Blacks, says the Games provide “a unique opportunity” for LGBT people “to meet and compete, and provides us all with a great sense of community and belonging.” Many athletes will compete in both Games, and most will tack on a holiday before, between, or after the events. is following the progress of athletes, receiving regular diary updates, and keeping track of medals won as and when inform ation becomes available. As Jeffcoat says, “While we would all like to win a medal, most of us are just happy to be part of an LGBT team representing New Zealand.” The 7th Gay Games, in Chicago, kicked off on July 15 and runs until July 22. The 1st Out Games, in Montreal, opens on 26 July and continues for nine days. David Parrish - 19th July 2006    

Credit: David Parrish

First published: Wednesday, 19th July 2006 - 12:00pm

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