The Sydney Stingers water polo team will travel to San Francisco in late August to compete at the 2003 International Gay and Lesbian Aquatics (IGLA) Championships. The Stingers, Sydney’s first competitive gay and lesbian water polo team, formed in time for the 2002 Gay Games in Sydney and are now making their final preparations before their first ever overseas competition.

We did so well at the Games that we feel we can do even better playing at an international level. So we’re all really excited about the prospect of getting over there and playing in San Francisco this year, says Sydney Stingers team captain Darren Wegg.

The Stingers finished eighth out of 15 teams competing at the 2002 Gay Games, and Wegg believes the team can improve on that performance at this year’s IGLA Championships.

We’re thinking that we’ll do quite well, he says. We’ll hopefully be in the top six teams, because the top six teams go through to the finals.

The Stingers compete in a weekly local competition, and also train twice a week.

The majority of our team at the moment have been there since before the

Games so they’ve had at least a year or two of training and also playing, Wegg says. We also have a lot of new players who have just joined us, which is really good and they’re developing the team and making it grow.

Wegg says the Stingers have not experienced the drop in interest in their sport that other gay and lesbian sporting clubs have reported following the end of the 2002 Gay Games.

It looks like we’ve survived the crash after the Games. We didn’t seem to lose any players -“ in fact we’ve managed to gain quite a few players, he says.

The Stingers are excited to be competing overseas, Wegg says, with most of the team’s players registered to play in the four-day tournament.

It’s generated a lot of excitement, he says. Most of the team has decided to go, so we actually have the second largest team that has been entered for the IGLA in San Francisco.

Wegg says that playing against teams from all over the world during the 2002 Gay Games was a great experience for the team, and that this experience inspired the team to make the effort to travel to the IGLA Championships.

The motivation came from the Gay Games. We all made really good friends with a lot of the other teams and with individual players, and they invited us to IGLA, he says.

The IGLA Championships will host teams from around the world, competing in sports such as swimming, diving and synchronised swimming, as well as water polo. Events will be held at Stanford University, just south of San Francisco, from 21 to 24 August. But it won’t just be serious competition; various social events and parties have been planned during the tournament as well.

A lot of people have joined the team not purely for the competitive side of playing water polo, but for the social side of entering a team sport, Wegg says.

The Stingers welcome new players, and while previous water polo experience isn’t necessary, strong swimming skills are recommended as it is a very physical game, says Wegg. The Stingers hold water polo training sessions every Saturday afternoon, which are open to anybody who would like to dust off their Speedos and give the game a try.

The Colombian Hotel, a sponsor of the Sydney Stingers, will host a fundraiser in aid of the team’s trip to the IGLA Championships on Sunday 3 August starting at 6pm. There will be some great prizes and the opportunity to meet the team and wish them luck in the tournament.

For further information about the Sydney Stingers visit
www.sydneystingers.org.au.

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