Skylight went all out for Gay Games 9
Wednesday, August 27, 2014

As the torch passes to Paris, the Cleveland Gay Games have been hailed a huge success and despite initial concerns about hosting the games in a smaller, more conservative location than in previous years, Cleveland and Akron have been lauded for their warm welcome and hosting a “magic week”.  The Skylight Foundation also played its part and went all out to welcome visitors to Cleveland and make it was has been described as an event of a lifetime.  

As life in Cleveland returns to normal, Skylight’s Olga Starr and Mark Owens, who both participated in the games, reflect on the week and what the Games meant to them.

Olga competed in the swimming and picked up a gold and silver medal in the women’s 200m freestyle relay and the women’s 200m relay.  She also beat her personal best in the 100m freestyle by 9 seconds!

Olga said “It's more than your everyday life. More than your ambitions, bank accounts and petty traffic frustration. It's greater than one person, one team, one country or one competition. It's a universe where a pain of one is felt by thousands, where a lost soul finds unconditional support; a world where you become timeless and ageless. You're the stiff achy arm of a 70-year-old struggling to make that one backstroke that'll bring the entire crowd on their feet screaming.  You're in the beautiful shoulders of a young man who's killing it, just killing that distance with his butterfly strokes.  You're thinking "GO, GO, GO!" so hard that you know that your teammate on the other side of the pool can hear you, and that will give him the strength to catch up.  I confess, I was going to post a picture of me with a couple of medals from the Games. And then I felt ashamed because I realized it was really not about me or the medals.  It's about us. It's about how amazing we, humans, can be.”

Mark, competed in the soccer playing for Cleveland Fury FC – a team that got together this spring as a result of networking on the Gay Games’ message boards and a desire to form a Cleveland-based soccer team.  The team just began to regularly training together in mid-June and this was their first time competing in a tournament.

Mark reflects “My participation in the recent Gay Games 9 was a great experience, one that I honestly didn’t expect to turn out as it did. What was initially done as a way of supporting the LGBT community and friends I have that are involved with it, turned out to be much more. I made a lot more friends and I am proud to be able to say I was part of the biggest Gay Games to date. Unfortunately our team, The Cleveland Fury, lost out in the bronze medal game but we came a long way in a matter of 8 weeks or so of practicing together. Before the games we had not played an actual game as a team.  This happened for the first time when we played and beat Toronto in Game 1. The Skylight Foundation being a part of this made it all that more important. It made us more determined to win or least do well  … we did a lot of both. In fact, our team had some light hearted discussion about Paris in 4 years’ time – who knows!!”

Check out some great photos from the week including photos of Olga receiving her medal (we think you’re great and admire your humility but just have to show these off!).