When the Gay Games finished in 2010 in Cologne, we were all buzzing from a fantastic meet and many of us made poolside promises to do it all again. That was until the next Gay Games was planned for Cleveland. Yes, it’s not San Fran, or Chicago, but it was America and we hoped for plenty of super fast swimmers to make for a promising competition.
So, Steph and I dutifully completed our registration online in January this year, expecting (hoping?) others would follow suit. They didn’t, so Steph and I represented OTS and spent the week explaining that we swam with OTS in Brighton, not London!
After a cancelled flight, two further flights and 24 hours awake we arrived in Cleveland. The build up was slow and I’m not sure that Cleveland was ready for the rainbow covered masses, but the atmosphere warmed up gradually and it was an enjoyable competition.
471 swimmers were registered and of these 78 were women. We were a bit disappointed with this as we hoped that the land of Missy Franklin and Katie Ledecky would turn out some more ladies for racing, but alas, it was not to be. The first day of racing meant a 200IM for me; I’d not raced this event before so I figured anything was a PB – right?! Plus, we’d only done one cheeky 50m pool training session so I must say the lack of turns was VERY noticeable! I finished in second place with a time of 3:03 so I was pleased with that.
On the second day of swimming Steph and I both swam 100m free and 50m breast. In the 100m free Steph took 5 seconds off her time and I added a couple of seconds on. Steph finished with a bronze and I took the gold. In the 50m breast Steph was very accurate with her time, finishing in fourth place and I was again slow by two seconds and came in second.
The final day of swimming for us bought mixed feelings; Steph was feeling unwell and didn’t swim and I had my best day’s swim. In the 100m breast I took 5 seconds off my seeded time and came in second. I pretty much hit my seeded time for the 50m fly and came in first. It bothered me that I was the only woman in my age group to compete in the 50m fly, but it was my best and final swim so I was pleased with it.
The competition was incredibly well staffed, we even had a Policeman on poolside (no truncheon jokes please!) and there were plenty of friendly volunteers who each had their own story. They gave their time freely and made us feel very welcome.
The only down side to the meet was that heats were run in age group order, not speed order, which meant you weren’t always racing people of your speed. The other swimmers were talkative and supportive as not many people had made the journey from the UK. One swimmer from QUAC (Queer Utah Aquatic Club), stood at the end of the pool on my 50m fly and cheered me into the wall. I’d met him 20 minutes earlier and told him my partner was unable to swim or spectate. As I was there by myself, he said he would shout for me from poolside. When I finished, I was so pleased to see him standing there, congratulating me. That’s what the Gay Games are all about, so next time it’s a location you may not fancy, just give it a shot, you will certainly get something out of it.
Out to Swim - South