International squash sensation Carin Clonda has become an Champion for the 1st Asia Pacific Outgames in 2008.
The gay and lesbian multi-sport event will be staged in Melbourne from 30 January to 3 February, during the Midsumma festival.
The first World Outgames was held in Montr? Canada in 2006, and attracted more than 12,000 participants.
Outgames are open to everybody, Clonda said, and there are no qualifying requirements.
It doesn’t matter what standard you are, she said.
That is the beauty of it. With any of these gay events it is not only focusing on the elite, but on participation. It is about everybody enjoying themselves and being able to play the sports that they like.
Clonda, CEO of NSW Squash, took up squash when she was 13 years old after suffering from chronic asthma.
She became the Australian Junior Champion in 1978, the British Junior Champion in 1979 and a World Team Champion in 1983.
After more than 20 years of achievements in the sport, Clonda was awarded the Australian Sports Medal in 2000 for services to the game.
As the first out gay squash player, Clonda said she experienced a lot of hostility.
I was vilified and I was spat at, not so much from within the squash community, but outside it, she said.
People are very ignorant and scared of what they don’t know. This is why Outgames is so important. Because people can be -˜out’ in a safe environment where there is no peer pressure to stay in the closet.
The Asia Pacific Outgames will include multi-sport tournaments, cultural events and a human rights conference. Australia is expected to make up 70 percent of the participants.
For more information go to www.melbourneoutgames.org.

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