One athlete’s journey to represent Team Philadelphia at the 2010 Gay Games.
Standing at just 5 feet 4 inches tall, Vietnamese native Anh Dang may seem like your average jock.
Only, he’s not.
A world-class triathlete with 25 marathons under his belt, Anh is on his way to Gay Games VIII this summer in Cologne, Germany, where he’ll be competing for Team Philadelphia, the Delaware Valley’s delegation to the Gay Games and an umbrella group for eight of the region’s GLBT sporting organizations.
Anh wasn’t always athletic. In fact, the 35-year-old pharmaceutical worker had never participated in sports until after graduating from Drexel in the late ’90s.
“I found the Philadelphia Falcons Soccer Club as I was looking for activities within the GLBT community that were alternatives to the gay bar scene,” says Anh, who played with the team for six years and who competed at the 2006 Gay Games in Chicago. He found the Falcons team welcoming and went on to join two more Team Philadelphia groups: Frontrunners, a local GLBT running club, and the Fins Aquatics Club.
Despite being unable to “even swim 50 yards freestyle nonstop” when he started with the Fins, Anh later swam an entire mile in the Schuylkill during in his first triathlon less than two years later.
He credits his coaches for their support, and current Fins club President Kacie King credits the group’s dedication to “working a lot with newer swimmers” and ensuring they “feel comfortable and reach their fitness goals.”
Their approach certainly worked for Anh and the 12 other Fins swimmers who will be joining him this summer in Cologne. Anh will compete in two breast-stroke events as well as the marathon, and hopes to beat his Chicago Games marathon time of 3:43:53.
The Gay Games are the GLBT equivalent of a week-long Olympics. Operating under the philosophy of founder and 1968 decathlete Tom Waddell that “doing one’s personal best should be the paramount goal in any athletic endeavour,” the Games showcase the talents of athletes of every age and skill level, in 35 sports and athletic disciplines. Some of these include figure skating, swimming, soccer, dancesport and even billiards. With no qualifying criteria, and with the majority of disciplines classified by age or ability, all GLBT athletes are welcome to attend and compete against their peers.
Reaching beyond traditional sports, the Gay Games also serve as an international cultural festival. The programming at this year’s Games will feature singers, musicians, dancers, cheerleaders, the International Rainbow Memorial Run (and Quilt) commemorating victims of HIV-AIDS and breast cancer and a sure-to-be impressive visual-arts exhibition. Move It!, will examine the concept of movement beyond its literal interpretation in sports. It’s also worth mentioning that the Games’ opening and closing ceremonies are legendary—think outrageous performances, over-the-top styles, international celebrities, music, dancing and fireworks, with an estimated 34,000 spectators and 12,000-plus participants representing more than 70 countries.
For Anh, competing at this year’s Gay Games isn’t necessarily about winning medals. While he considers it “an honor just to compete with (his) LGBT peers and allies,” Anh’s looking forward to reconnecting with several new friends he met from the last Games in Chicago, and is thrilled that his partner, Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas Judge Daniel Anders, will be accompanying him to Cologne.
“I feel fortunate to live my life as an openly gay person and to have full acceptance from my family and friends,” he says, “and I hope to inspire others to always strive for their personal best in whatever they do.”
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