This past few weeks I have been overseas; swimming and socialising my way through a glorious European summer. One of the main reasons for my trip was to compete, and represent Wett Ones, at the Eurogames in Stockholm. Master’s swimming brings people of all ages, abilities and backgrounds together to continue to do the thing that we love in a supportive environment from post-high school to our twilight years. The slogan of ‘Fitness, Friendship, and Fun’ that we have regularly rings true and certainly did in Sweden this past week as master’s swimmers came together to compete.
Within this group of people who like to move swiftly through chlorinated bodies of water, there is a sub-community of us who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and others (LGBT+). Within Australia this sub-community is represented by three highly dynamic and enthusiastic swimming clubs, one in each of the eastern seaboard capitals, but there are many more around the world. Occasionally these clubs come together to swim hard and interact with each other in fantastic ways to develop our group-within-a-group. Eurogames was one of these times. While the meet is open to all and includes a full sporting, cultural and political programme; this year’s ‘perfect storm’ was created due to the event combining with the annual International Gay & Lesbian Aquatics (IGLA) competition, and the preceding week’s Stockholm Pride. IGLA is usually confined to North America and so the promise of Stockholm in August plus a highly competitive and gay-friendly event led to over 550 swimmers entering the meet.
There were some unbelievable swims, both in general and from our friends closer to home. A particular mention of course has to go to our own Colin Standen who swum a great 50m freestyle in his first competitive meet after a particularly stressful day of waiting to find out if he would be scratched. In addition it always amazes me to see a sub-50 second 100m freestyle, as we saw both here in Stockholm and even at the Australian Masters Swimming Nationals.
All was not completely rosy at the pool though. In Australia we are fortunate to be supported by well-established swimming organisations - Masters Swimming Australia and their state branches enable us do what we do in a regulated way. When we enter a meet, we are issued with heat/psych sheets well in advance, we arrive and we know when are going swim, we are marshaled and we do our thing and the results are recorded both locally and in our national database. This was not the case in Sweden, with heat sheets being issued on the morning of competition, no marshaling, and most notably the seemingly random decision (as happened to Colin) to scratch certain swimmers to save time. I hope this does not leave a negative mark on the Eurogames as a competition, but I think it’s likely that it will put off some competitors from attending the next one in Helsinki, and for sure it will make IGLA think twice before associating themselves with it again. For me, it reaffirms the great job that is done by our organisations in Australia and makes me glad to be part of the great swimming culture that we have.
Beyond the swimming there were opening and closing ceremonies – with Swedish pop making its welcome presence known, athletes parties where most of us were back on the booze after an abstention, cultural talks encompassing Scandinavian and global issues, and plans made for upcoming games. If you’re a Wett One, or a prospective Wett Ones, or any other LGBT+ swimmer, I would highly encourage you to get involved with this fantastic side to our sport. There are always Gay Games, Out Games and other events on the horizon – Auckland next February is fast approaching, and following that Miami in May 2017. I am already hearing great things about Miami! These events are hugely fun, but also if you choose to target them they can be an incredible motivating factor to improve your swimming, and of course to meet other LGBT+ swimmers and athletes from other disciplines.
Stockholm was fantastic – filled with ABBA museums, and Grona Lunds, and cured fish, and making new friends from around the world. But for me personally, I missed having the support of the club here as there were only two of us from Sydney. While I was surrounded by great people from other clubs, being a Wett One to me is about both training and competing side by side with my friends and team mates. Sometimes we smash PBs, sometimes we have an off day, and as Master’s swimmers many things have the potential to get in the way of our training – work commitments, injuries (that damned rotator cuff), and so on. Having the club’s support mitigates these issues because there is always the underlying knowledge that we are doing our best and having a good time doing it with each other. I hope that at the next opportunity, when I attend one of these events I won’t have to sit on the sidelines during the relays, but that I’ll be swimming as a Wettie, and cheering as we win medals together. So I hope that in my next blog post, after Auckland, I will be able to congratulate many of you on great swims, and that I’ll have a wingman or five at the parties!
Puss puss Wett Ones, Tristan
(That’s Swedish by the way!)
Photos by Dane McManus and myself.