Team Auckland Swimmers took a team of two women and seven men ranging from late twenties to mid-seventies to The International Gay and Lesbian Aquatics, Melbourne 2020. Between us, we covered all four strokes, long distance and sprint events. Head Coach, Cynthia Borne set us a great programme which crucially, included relay practice.
The first Gay Games – Los Angeles1982 was so much fun the Americans decided to do it annually. IGLA was born and West Hollywood Aquatics famously lead the charge. At the height of the AIDS crisis, they battled homophobia and hysteria, swimming through water overdosed with chlorine and losing team mates from HIV, to compete with straight clubs and win and they are still winning. I love these yearly meetings with senior swimmers from clubs all around the world.
We competed in the fabulous outdoor covered pool at The Melbourne Sports & Aquatics Centre. Water Polo, Syncro and diving were also accommodated in various pools in the complex. Team Auckland’s first spectacular win was the 4 x 50 metre mixed freestyle relay in the 240+ years age group, beating two other teams to take the IGLA record previously held by West Hollywood Aquatics. We were all thrilled, particularly Diana, swimming in her first ever pool competition and taking her first start off the raised diving blocks. We repeated the gold medal later in the day for the 4 x 100 metre mixed relay. Team Auckland came away from the competition with 16 Gold, 5 Silver and 4 Bronze medals. Great swimming scored points to bring us to 12th in the club league table of fifty-two.
I joke with my older American friends every year about getting older and staying alive through swimming, how it gets harder every year. We don’t always remember names but faces and speedo clad bodies are instantly recognisable. We agree that ‘turning up, starting and finishing’ is important. It’s incredibly inclusive and the slowest person in a heat is always applauded for their effort. Our Terry, has gone from a complete non swimmer to an international competitor in a matter of months through sheer determination. He loved the challenge and ‘had a sense of belonging to a team – great to be in an environment where the rainbow community is the norm.’ Duncan entered all three butterfly races, a brave choice. He was there to watch and learn. After going out a bit too fast on the 100 m Fly, he easily picked up the pace for the 50m and swam a relaxed 200m perfectly on the last day. Wonderful. Ed has declared that this is his swansong but came away with a Bronze medal in the 100 Breaststroke so we may yet entice him back into the competition pool.
We were in the presence of champions. A ninety-year-old woman, broke a clutch of world records. Other world and regional records were smashed, just to prove that LGBT swimmers are as good as anyone. It was also great to meet up with ex-Olympian, Daniel Kowalski (1996) who now swims with Wet Ones, Sydney. I’d met him at IGLA New York last year where he spoke on a panel of gay ex-Olympians.
Team Auckland continued to haul in the medals thanks to Ron, Jenny, Diana and myself. Diana, our only open water swimmer came away with a Bronze in her age group.
For the first time ever, we entered a 4 x 200m relay team. It’s a gruelling race and we were just pipped to third place by a few seconds. The Mixed 400 Medley team, however, brought us home on the last day with gold for Jenny, Chenyang, Duncan and Diana. Jenny notes: – ‘a rare opportunity for relay races. They spur me on, to try my hardest for the team and I love seeing my team-mates doing the same.’
Perhaps even more important than the medals and competition are the social and entertainment aspects of IGLA. A rooftop bar provided the opening party with a great view of the Melbourne skyline. Our women enjoyed the women’s dinner. There was a party every night, including a French themed picnic.
The last day of IGLA always includes ‘The Pink Flamingo’, performed by those clubs with larger numbers. Jenny again: – ‘short, improvised & not-so-synchronised performances in and out of the pool. This year the Aussie teams satirised their sexist politicians, their newsreaders and ex-tennis-champ-turned-homophobe, Margaret Court. The standout were the Parisian Shiny Shrimps, who must have packed their costumes in excess baggage for their elaborate skit about global warming.’
Team Auckland retired to a local gastro pub for a meal with Different Strokes Wellington. We usually meet and compete once a year – this time only across the dinner table. Some of us went on to the sunset beach party at St Kilda’s, a chance to mix and mingle until next year in Salt Lake City.
Finally, the day after saw us on a bus tour visiting a wild life sanctuary topped off with wine tasting at the Chandon winery. Great Australian hospitality and organisation.
Back in the pool we’re getting ready for the next New Zealand Masters competition, and encouraging new LGBT swimmers to join us.
TAMS swim at the Tepid Pool http://www.tams.org.nz/