HOTSPOTS TALKS TO TWO FLORIDA ATHLETES WHO HOPE TO WIN
The Gay Games is the world’s largest sporting event for LGBT athletes, and the Games have celebrated excellence in physical ability since 1982. In just a few short days, over ten thousand athletes from over 60 countries will be competing in the 2014 Gay Games, which will be held in the cities of Cleveland and Akron, Ohio starting on August 9 and going on through the day of closing ceremonies on August 16.
Originally the Gay Games was envisioned as the gay equivalent of the Olympics, so much so that it was originally named “the Gay Olympics.” After the International Olympic Committee threatened a lawsuit, the name was changed to the “Gay Games.” By the 1990s, it looked like the joke was on the Olympic Committee for distancing themselves, as the number of athletes competing in the Gay Games was larger than the actual Olympics. The 1994 Gay Games, held in New York City on the 25th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, attracted more athletes than the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona or the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta.
The Gay Games have been extremely successful and have brought hundreds of millions of dollars of tourism revenue for its respective hosts. Past hosts have included San Francisco, Vancouver, New York City, Amsterdam, Sydney, Chicago, and Cologne. For now, the spotlight is on Cleveland and Akron, located in the fifteenth largest metro area in the country and by far the largest in the state of Ohio. For us, the spotlight is also on the teams heading up to Ohio from the Sunshine State, who are hoping to bring home gold medals.
Scion Provenzano is one of 17 team members competing in the delegation that St. Petersburg is sending to this year’s Gay Games. Out of the entire team, she is the only woman. “The team consists of superstars,” she said. “We all work day jobs, have families, lives, et cetera. We all volunteer and give back to our community.”
And now the community is giving back to them. Thanks to a partnership with St. Pete Pride and with lots of hard work raising funds themselves, they will be going as a team to participate in the softball category, and hopefully win the tournament. “When the opportunity came up, our team and St. Pete Pride got together and figured out how much money we’d have to raise in order to go. We have held fundraisers and worked Pride events for almost a year now raising funds,” she said, adding that the team has practiced for over a year in the hopes of bringing back first place for Florida.
Hector Torres is part of a diverse team traveling to Cleveland and Akron from Orlando. His team consists of 22 different athletes competing in 12 sports. This is a much larger showing than the previous Gay Games, in which only four Central Florida athletes could afford to compete in Cologne, Germany.
Hector himself is going to be keeping very busy, as he is competing in the triathlon, the 10k run, the cycling time-trial and the half-marathon. The triathlon is the event in which he has the most experience, having competed in events over the past thirteen years.
“Most of the times I’m top three,” he tells us, admitting he’s lost count of the number of awards he’s won in the triathlon. “I was in the top five out of the water and in the top three on the bike. I was going to kick everyone’s butts, but it was not meant to be,” he told me as he confessed that his last Gay Games appearance ended in an accident that left him hospitalized for two weeks. “There’s only so much you can do,” he said, but he feels confident that this will be the year for him to take first place in the triathlon event.
Both Scion and Hector are confident that they will excel and bring back first place honors and bragging rights to Florida. “We are a great group of people and play very hard. So the chance of [us taking first place] is high!” Scion says. “We want to kick a–. We want to do well. We want to take home a high medal count in every sport we participate in,” Hector told us with a laugh. And hopefully both teams will realize their dreams. Good luck to them!
Find out more about the 2014 Gay Games in Cleveland and Akron by going to their website at gg9cle.com. Like them on facebook at facebook.com/gaygamescleveland and follow them on twitter @GG9Cleveland.