‘When I was in my very early thirties at university, I saw the first ever Manchester Road Marathon. I got so excited that I entered it the next year. I had no idea what to do, I just popped out to C&A, bought a pair of plimsoles and off I went for a run. I finished the marathon in three hours fifty-two minutes – a pretty good speed for someone running in plimsoles. I’ve always liked sports which challenge my stamina, that really push me, like running a marathon, swimming a mile or lifting a heavier weight. As I grew older, I found this less relevant and also, I physically couldn’t do it. I had to find something which would keep up my fitness levels. I’ve been playing golf since my mid-forties and was playing up until last summer when I had a stroke. I was paralysed – that’s gone now I’m able to walk about, but my balance is lousy. If I was to give a really big swing on a golf club, I’d fall over. I started walking with my crutches and once I could do without those, I returned to swimming. I started off with hydrotherapy – walking in the pool, doing bending exercises trying to regain my balance. The first time I swam two lengths of the pool, I was exhausted. I gradually built it up and I now do fifty lengths three times a week. There’s no doubt in my mind that this has contributed to my recovery.
The thing I’m missing at the moment is being in a team. The golf was very much about being in the club, playing with my friends, playing in competitions against each other and I miss that. I am going to Spain to do a course for people who have had life changing events and need to get back into golf. After a week of intense training I’ll learn how to play golf again and I’ll get back that sense of being something which is more than me. It’s also very much about the social aspect.
In order to keep up with my swimming, as it does get a bit boring just swimming up and down on my own, I’ve set myself a challenge to swim the channel. It’s twenty- one miles wide at its narrowest point. So, I’m going to swim a mile a day for twenty-one days in my local swimming pool. I’m thinking of getting sponsored.’
One of the things which kept me going as chair of BLAGSS for so long is all the stories. One young man was diagnosed with a brain tumour in his late teens and also came out as gay which made his family life difficult, he felt even more depressed and isolated. He joined a local LGBT mental health charity, Mind Out, and they suggested he join BLAGSS. It changed his life and now he has family and connections and would do anything to keep BLAGSS going.
The thing that really motivates me to volunteer for things like the Federation of Gay Games, is creating opportunities for other people. There’re loads of LGBT sports going on around the world but if a group of people don’t get together and work hard, the Gay Games won’t happen every four years. When I was in Paris last Summer, competing and watching, people were just doing the most wonderful things.
The Federation of Gay games sponsors LGBT athletes, many of whom come from countries where homosexuality is punishable by death. There was a young man from such a country who had the most liberating and exciting week. We ran a conference at the end asking all of those on these scholarships what are you going to do when you go home? He said, “I’m going to talk to my Mum and Dad and try and come out to them. Then I can start to work with other men who are like me so we can build some sports groups.” I was absolutely choking with tears when he said that.
To find our other Out & Active Champions, click on their names.
Viv from BLAGSS
Christopher from Out To Swim
Nigel from Goslings London Badminton Club
Sarah from London Otters Rowing Club
Nash from London Royals Hockey
Tammy from London Royals Hockey
Peter from London Otters Rowing Club
Chris and Tina from Waltzing with Hilda and Pink Jukebox
Joanie from Hackney Women’s Football Club and The Federation of Gay Games
Ann from Gay Gooners
Sarah from Out To Swim
Champion interviews by Christopher Preston
Design for Out & Active by Laura Salisbury
Out & Active is kindly
supported by London Sport