The Sydney Gay Games was my coming out. Well, I’d come out years before but the Games were the ‘outing’ of my swimming career.
Having spent my youth climbing, swimming and playing rugby at uni, and then little sport since, I joined Sydney’s gay swim club, Wett Ones, to prepare for the Sydney Gay Games.
At that first swim, I was met by a pool full of thrashing Olympians. But what also came with it were good friendships and the patience of the coaches.
Originally from Rozelle, I moved to London 25 years ago to work as a lawyer.
A few years ago I was hospitalised with HIV-related illness. It was a wake-up call. I decided to give the law job away and spend more time in Sydney to try and turn things around. Swimming was part of that change. I was one of the lucky ones — great doctors and the drugs turned up for me just in time. Plus there’s nothing like swimming with Wett Ones at Boy Charlton pool on a summer’s day to feel glad to be alive.
At the age of 55, the club has enabled me to reach a new level of fitness and to develop my swimming style. It has also taken me to some amazing competitions, most recently Montreal and Copenhagen for the Outgames and soon to Cologne for the Gay Games.
Swimming has given me two of my best sports moments. The first was winning gold in a mixed relay team of Wett Ones in Copenhagen. The other was my first ocean swim race, amongst girls and guys from the club. It’s an incredible feeling to have swum through the waves, out to sea and back again and come running out of the water to cross the finish line, cheered on by your mates.
Over the years I had hoped to convince various boyfriends to come along to watch, but truth is I get more support from my lucky blue cossies I scored at a Byron Bay ocean race.
For all the swimming progress and social events, Wett Ones isn’t all fun. Despite the many tips from club members and practice at home, I still haven’t been able to improve my dodgy dives and tumble turns in the pool — humbling and motivating.
What would I do if I didn’t swim? I would no doubt reach a staggering state of lethargy. Worst of all, I would lose some very special friendships built up through the club.
When I marched into the arena the opening night of the Sydney Games, surrounded by teammates, it was a magical moment. We were all proud to be there, whether as serious competitors or those who just enjoy sport socially.
It’s one of the things that keeps me swimming with Wett Ones — to be able to set personal goals surrounded by a diverse, fun, enthusiastic group of men and women of all ages, who are inspiring in and out of the pool.