Cancellations. Misappropriation of funds. Chaos. Confusion. This year’s World OutGames had it all. Unfortunately for athletes many of the stories were about the drama instead of the achievements, the triumphs and the glory that only happens at a major sporting event.
Despite all of the hurdles the aquatics portion of the OutGames had to face, the events ran fairly smoothly due to the local aquatics community rallying around their sport.
More than 600 athletes competed in the aquatics portion of the games.
One of them was Alvaro Gutierrez. Locally he swims with the Hammerheads in Fort Lauderdale. It was his first swim meet.
“I feel very accomplished,” the Oakland Park resident said. “I had friends and family see me for all 3 days of my competitions. I was truly humbled to see them there cheering me on.”
While he didn’t win any medals, as he expected, what mattered was participating.
“I was told that as long as I don't lose my goggles or get disqualified, I'm doing great,” he said. “Well I didn't get disqualified in any of my events.”
Gutierrez competed in 3 individual events and 3 relays. And now he knows how to get better for next time around.
“I need to improve my dive and flip turns. I also want to learn breast and fly,” he said. “My next goal will be to attend the Gay Games on Paris 2018.”
The aquatic events were hosted and organized by LGBT Swim team in Miami, Nadadores South Florida, in conjunction with the International Gay and Lesbian Aquatics.
Unlike many of the sporting events the aquatics events were never canceled. Even so when the OutGames collapsed those events could have fallen apart as well. But the community rallied behind them to get things back on track.
“OutGames abandoned us on every front. We were not sure if we would be able to put on the competition,” Corey Welch said, current captain of the newly formed Miami Vice Water Polo team and former co-captain of the Nadadores. “As a team and community we pulled together, found volunteers, and volunteered ourselves. Many of us missed our own events to ensure that we were able to continue on with the competition.”
Among the problems aquatics organizers faced: not enough volunteers, no tents for shade, missing essential equipment and even no medals.
“In the end we put on what I think was an amazing event. I’ve seen people post on social media that it was the best IGLA ever. We had beautiful weather, all swims and polo games were played, and luckily all the other teams were very patient and understanding of the situation we had been put in,” Welch said. “I couldn’t be more proud of our teams and the locals that helped us over these last 4 days.”
Kirk Arthur, another former captain of the Nadadores, said the reason the aquatics events could continue at all was because the Nadadores made sure to have OutGames pay for the costs, including the venue, up front.
“They asked us to front the money, but it would have bankrupted the team,” Arthur said. “So that's why I said no when I was captain.”
The board of the International Gay and Lesbian Aquatics was especially grateful for the support of the local community and host team.
“Thanks to [the Nadadores] efforts, we had all the essentials - pools, officials, and some great social events - so we had a successful championships and 30th anniversary celebration,” Evan Matthew Cobb said, secretary of the IGLA. “Unfortunately, OutGames were responsible for a number of important things we had to do without. IGLA athletes train incredibly hard and look forward to this meet all year. It’s hard to overstate how disappointing OutGames’ behavior has been. It has done tremendous damage to the LGBTQ athletics community that we all care about so deeply.”
Kirk Arthur noted one other highlight from the swimming competition.
“The Swedish team broke a Swedish National Record in the 200-meter relay,” he said. “Gay Swedes break national record. Cool!”
Visit MiamiGayAquatics.org for more information on the local LGBT aquatics community.