Let the games continue! We’re right in the middle of a great international sporting summer and over the next two weeks I’m concentrating on sport. The 9th Gay Games begins tonight with over 11,000 athletes arriving to compete for the coveted gold, silver and bronze medals. From its modest beginnings in San Francisco in 1982 the Gay Games has grown into a sporting event to rival the Olympics in its international participation. And in celebration of this fact I’ve written 4 articles on medal winners from the most far flung of locations.
I’ve looked for Gay
Games medallists who come from the most northerly, southerly, easterly and
westerly points on the globe.
North and South
presented no problem, but with East and West, rather than go for locations on
either side of 180° E/W or along the International Date Line I’ve chosen the
Greenwich Meridian as my most westerly line and 180° as my most easterly. Today
I’m looking SOUTH.
Bodies such as the
International Olympic Committee only accept athletes who belong to official
national sporting committees, events like the Gay Games also welcomes athletes
who are not. Athletes can compete as individuals with no ties to sports clubs
or nations and most compete as members of clubs or organisations. They may all
march into the opening ceremonies in national groups, but they compete for
their club. Very often teams are made up of athletes from several different
countries, which is quite useful if you want to enter the football contest with
a couple of friends and join up with a team who are a couple of men short.
So, which Gay Games
medallists come from the most southern point?
ANTARCTICA - Yes, the Antarctic has
been officially represented in international sport. Even though the following
people can’t claim Antarctic nationality they both registered as being resident
there, so have become the South Pole’s first official international athletes.
At the 2002 Sydney Gay
Games the Antarctic was represented by two competitors, both powerlifters. Mariah Crossland and Erik Richards were both working in the US
Antarctic research centre at the McMurdo (at 77°S well below the Antarctic
Circle). Mariah worked in computer support and Erik was a space scientist.
Mariah, a native of
Montana, USA, began working at McMurdo in 1992. She was always an active person
– cycling, hiking, skiing and weight training. Down at the South Pole the
weather was hardly ever conducive to outdoor pursuits, particularly during the
6 months of night they call summer down there.
Station has a gym, and there were several small annual sporting contests held
for the station’s thousand or so international residents. Mariah took up
powerlifting after being inspired by the first powerlifting contest there in
January 2002. Later that year the Gay Games were to be held in Sydney,
Australia, and Mariah began to train for her first competition. Mariah was
lucky enough to find Erik Richards as a training partner. Erik had competed in
powerlifting competitions since he was a teenager back home in his native
Alaska. He had arrived at McMurdo in 1999, and agreed to accompany Mariah to
the Gay Games.
At the Gay Games Mariah
competed against the Aussie Katrina Robertson, her only opponent in her Women’s
Masters 90 kg category. In the squat life both women lifted 160kg, but Mariah’s
attempt to lift 170 failed so they were equally placed. Mariah bench-pressed
107.5 kg to take the lead on points, but could not match Katrina’s dead-lift of
185 kg and was overtaken on points to end up with the silver medal.
Erik competed in the
Men’s 100 kg Open category against Randy Evans and Steve Heyl. Unfortunately he
failed in his 3 attempts to life 195 kg in the squat life and “bombed out” of
the competition. Erik has continued to work in the space industry and currently
lives and works in New Mexico (you can’t get much of a contrast in temperatures
In more recent years
life hasn’t been kind to Mariah since then. In later 2011 she discovered she
had ovarian cancer and returned to her Montana home. With the support of her
partner Candace, Mariah found herself surrounded by people who helped to pay
her medical bills. To make her feel “at home” when she arrived back in Montana
a friends, a snow sculptor, sculpted a polar bear outside her house to remind
Mariah of her Antarctic adventures. Another friend even donated some of the
profits of her novel (a murder mystery set in Antarctica) to Mariah’s medical
Next time we look north
and travel to the far side of the globe.