CHICAGO – With more than 30 athletes from Nashville, Memphis, and Knoxville, Tennessee was well represented at Gay Games VII in Chicago, as they joined athletes from all over the world.
The week-long event brought more than 11,600 athletes from 70 countries to Chicago for a week of competition, arts festival, parties, and spectacular opening and closing ceremonies. “Out & About Newspaper” provided exclusive coverage of Team Tennessee from Chicago with daily Web updates and breaking news alerts on how the athletes were performing.
The event marked the first time that Tennessee has had such a large representation at the Gay Games. Nashville residents Sam Felker and Keith Little have competed in the last two Gay Games held in Amsterdam and Sidney. Felker and Little spearheaded the effort to get more Tennesseans involved, and wanted to introduce others to the international multi-cultural event.
Team Nashville brought home a total of six medals from the event.
Kerry Garner was the first Tennessean to win a medal. Garner won a gold medal in his age division in the cycling event criterium at Sherman Park on Monday, July 17.
Patrick Cooper, a Vanderbilt University School of Law student, brought home the most medals and was the second Tennessean to do so. He won the silver medal in the 5K run. Cooper’s time was 17:10. Cooper placed second in his age division, and fourth overall. Cooper also won a gold medal in the 5000m in track and a silver medal in the 4×400 relay team.
Keith Little won two medals – a gold medal in the men’s javelin throw, throwing the javelin 43.52 meters and a bronze medal in the shot put.
Knoxville’s Gyrlgroove softball team finished seventh place at the Gay Games, out of 20 teams. They played a total of eight games, going 6 – 2 overall. They played two games on Friday July 21, winning the first against Indy Crush but loosing their second game against Safe Sox. Team members include Laura Schlittler, Elizabeth Edmonds, Esther Norris, Cheryl Kinneberg, Tonia Hensley, Dee Gonzalez, Heather Hedden, Jen Brown, Coach Angie Young, Karen Peabody, Katie Blazewski, Laura Collins (Ice Box), Jane White (Playmate) and Sherie Folta.
The team has raised $3,500 toward covering its expenses on the trip, and needs an additional $1,500. For more information on how to donate visit www.angieyoung.com/softball.
“We are still raising funds,” Young said. “But this is a great opportunity to participate in an international sporting event this close to home.”
Nashville attorney Sam Felker escaped serious injury after the gears on his bicycle locked and threw him headfirst over the front of the bicycle onto the pavement, as he was competiting in the Gay Games VII triathlon.
Despite the crash, Felker finished the triathlon and was pleased with the results.
“My gears locked up and I went over the handle bars,” Felker said. “I did receive quite a few cuts and bruises but nothing serious. I was able to get up and finish. And I’m quite happy that I could finish.”
The triathlon started on Lake Shore Beach Front, Chicago and featured swimming, bike race, and run.
“But it’s more than just winning,” Felker said. “It’s about being here and competing. I’m proud Tennessee has had such a strong showing at Gay Games VII.”
Other Tennesseans competing included Stan Schklar, 5k run; Jeffrey Smith, tennis men’s B singles, and doubles; John Anderson, tennis men’s C singles and doubles; Heath Chamblee, tennis men’s C singles and doubles; Stephen Olson, tennis men’s open singles and doubles; Tad Williams, tennis men’s 40+ singles; Kip Kibbons, tennis men’s B singles; Don Watson, tennis men’s C singles and bowling; Alan Herbers, men’s softball and a competitor from Knoxville in men’s volleyball.
Christopher Sanders, president of the Tennessee Equality Project, was one of the many spectators from Tennessee. He said an event like this would not have been possible 30 years ago.
“It’s really amazing how far the world has come,” Sanders said. “The excitement of the athletes as they march in and represent their countries is just amazing. They are a beacon for equality and pride.”
At the opening ceremony Megan Mullally, one of the stars from “Will and Grace,” said this was “a grand and historic celebration.” Mullally was received with a standing ovation. “Not only are you athletically gifted, but you’re also the best groomed athletes around,” she said.
Mullally introduced Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley saying “just because he doesn’t bat for the team, that doesn’t mean he doesn’t bat for gay rights.”
Daley said he was proud his city could host the 2006 event and that Chicago combined “Midwestern hospitality with big-city sophistication.”
“Gay men and women are welcome in Chicago,” he said. “Diversity makes our city vibrant and strong.” Daley also noted that more than 400,000 people participated in the rain in this year’s Chicago Pride Parade and Festival.