Australian LGBTI athletes to go for gold at Darwin Outgames
With the third Asia Pacific Outgames ready to unleash on Darwin this weekend, GNN takes a look at what’s in store for Australian LGBTI athletes.
Australia’s top end will spring into life next week when Darwin plays host to the 3rd Asia Pacific Outgames. With over 1000 competitors from throughout the region expected to descend on the Northern Territory capital, as well as thousands of supporters, the Outgames are predicted to deliver a celebration of the individuality and sporting acumen of the LGBTI community.
Participants will be competing in a range of popular sporting events such as soccer, basketball and tennis as well as more eclectic sports such as dragonboat racing, same-sex dancesport, roller derby and ten pin bowling.
Outgames chairman Olli Berst, who has also previously competed in the Games, said the Darwin event is going to be a wonderful opportunity and experience for both its guests and hosts.
“The Darwin Outgames’ motto is 'Strength Through Togetherness',” Berst told GNN. “After two successful Asia-Pacific Outgames in Melbourne and Wellington, where I participated in Badminton, I hope from now until the end of the 3rd Asia-Pacific Outgames that we can stand together hand in hand to make this an exciting and successful event.”
The games are staged by the Gay and Lesbian International Sports Association to nurture LGBT sport and to help build links both inside and outside of the community. As such the Outgames rely on a huge contingent of volunteers to make the games a success. There are over 600 volunteers participating at this year’s event.
Whilst the Outgames is a sporting event, unlike the Olympics or the Commonwealth Games, the emphasis is not on elite athletic performance, but rather on participation.
TEAM SYDNEY SET TO SUCCEED
Norman Mitchell, secretary from Team Sydney said he is looking forward to the sense of community and celebration the Outgames provides.
“I wish all the competitors a safe and successful games,” Mitchell told GNN.
Mitchell said he hoped Team Sydney would shine at the games and expects a hefty medal tally for NSW.
“A lot of the Team Sydney members are experienced. They have been playing their chosen sports for a long time and are quietly confident that they will bring home the gold.”
One of the teams poised to make a splash at the Outgames is Sydney’s LGBT swimming club, the Wett Ones.
With over 90 active members, the Wett Ones is one of the largest clubs in Master Swimming NSW and is also a proud member of Team Sydney.
According to Wett Ones president Pascal Blanquer, the Wett Ones will field more than 30 swimmers at the games.
“The Outgames have been the main target of the club for the past year,” Balnquer said.
“The training program was tailored for us to try and get us in peak for it.”
Blanquer, who himself has entered a variety of freestyle and medley events, said that program has included up to five sessions per week for the past six months. “Some of our swimmers have been swimming up to four times a week in recent weeks to get ready for Darwin.”
MELBOURNE READY TO SHINE
The Wett Ones, howeverm have their work cut out for them.
Christian Rantzau, Vice President of Melbourne LGBT swimming club, the Glamourhead Sharks, told GNN they have the largest contingent of all the local teams visiting Darwin.
“It’s going to be good fun, and we’re aiming for some state and national records while we’re up there as well,” Rantzau said. “The club are swimming exceptionally well and training very hard for state championships.”
But it’s not all about gold glory. For Jimmy Twin, President of the Melbourne ten-pin bowling team the 69ers, the Outgames is more about friendly competition.
“I have already made a few friends from Wellington and Antwerp. Even though ten-pin bowling can be a very competitive sport, it is also extremely social, and we always have a lot of fun after a day of bowling competition” he said.
When asked about his chances of bringing a medal home for Melbourne though, Jimmy gave a modest assessment.
“My chances? Not very high!” he laughed.
“I wouldn't call myself a great bowler, but as some of the competition is based on a handicap system I think everyone who goes has a chance of coming home with a medal, particularly in the team events as it all matters how everyone on the team bowls on the day.”
BRISBANE GETS ITS GAME ON
There’ll be plenty of teamwork on show when Brisbane LGBT swimming club Aqualicious take to Darwin’s pools.
Aqualicious’s Roy Lancaster said at the previous Asia-Pacific Outgames, the team built great relationships with other LGBT swim squads.
“We would like to thank Brisbane’s LGBT community for supporting us over the years – both the businesses that have sponsored us, and members of the community who have attended our fundraisers such as the Aqualicious Pool Party,” Lancaster said.
“Please wish our swimmers well this year in Darwin!”
TEAM ADELAIDE APPLIES THE HEAT
For Team Adelaide's Bryan Thalbourne, who played squash at the first two Asia Pacific Outgames in Melbourne and Wellington and will be attending the Darwin Games as a volunteer, the Outgames and similar events are an opportunity for everyone in our communities to participate in sport, irrespective of their level of ability.
“Not just the elite sportspeople you see going to Olympics and Commonwealth Games,” Thalbourne said. “While they’re inspiring, nothing beats participating in whatever way you can, and to your own abilities. The rewards are not just the physical activity.
I have met people through the Games – and Team Adelaide – that I count amongst my greatest friends.”
THE CITY OF DARWIN
Apart from sport, culture, forums and parties, another major drawcard for these Outgames is Darwin itself. Australia's only tropical capital, the city is renowned for its laid-back vibe and cosmopolitan multicultural buzz, heavily influenced by the local Larrakia people and its relative proximity to Asia compared to other Australian cities.
“It’s such a relaxed, beautiful place and there is definitely more to do than just the Outgames,” said Thalbourne, who has visited twice before.
“There are numerous day and night markets and I’m especially fond of the Art Gallery/Museum up there.”
SPOTLIGHT ON HUMAN RIGHTS
The Darwin Outgames also plays host to a human rights conference during the latter half of the festivities. “Power Through Action” is the theme the forum which features Former Justice Michael Kirby, Human Rights Commissioner Tim Wilson, former Hobson’s Bay Mayor Tony Briffa and New Zealand MP and same-sex marriage advocate Louisa Wall.
The forum will highlight human rights issues for LGBTI people and focus on building social movements for change. Organisers said the forum will provide an opportunity for LGBTI people to be heard and have their stories and concerns shared throughout the Asia Pacific region.
“Human Rights week is a significant reminder of the need for power through action,” said Jacqui Pearce Director of the Human Rights Forum. “The Forum provides an important opportunity for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people to share a call to action.”
[Top image] Sydney's Wett Ones. Photo: John McRae
For more information on the Outgames visit 3apog.com.au
With reporting by James Findlay, Reg Domingo, Andrew Shaw, Ron Hughes and Eric Kuhlmann.
Keep up to date with all the latest from the Asia-Pacific Outgames. Gay News Network is sending reporters and photographers to cover all the event. Visit us daily for Outgames updates.