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"Passing The Torch" Post 33 of 40

29 Aug 2022 09:58 | Douglas Litwin (Administrator)

Gay Games I: Bowling, Medals, and Swimming

Produced and curated by Federation of Gay Games Archivist Doug Litwin and FGG Honourary Life Member Shamey Cramer
with Ankush Gupta, FGG Officer of Communications

Read the entire "Passing The Torch" series as it is posted daily HERE.

Post 33 of 40 - 28 August: Gay Games I: Bowling, Medals, and Swimming

“Passing The Torch: Ruby Anniversary Edition” is a factual timeline of the major events that have been part of the Gay Games evolution since its inception. The series will run from 28 July 2022 - one month before the 40th anniversary of the original Opening Ceremony at San Francisco’s Kezar Stadium - through 5 September, the anniversary of Gay Games I Closing Ceremony. All postings will remain online and available for viewing at the FGG website.

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Park Bowl: Site for Gay Games I and II bowling. Photos: Jim Hahn

JAMES HAHN: The next morning, on Sunday, I bowled in Singles and did pretty well. However, later that afternoon, I learned that my favorite grandmother had passed away on the day of Opening Ceremony. This happened before the days of cell phones and all my mother knew was that I was in San Francisco. She actually tracked me down through the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence and I got the message from the Reverend Mother.

I did manage to place 18th and I thus made it to the next round, something I’ve done in each subsequent Gay Games, except for New York.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: It was at the San Francisco Tavern Guild gay bowling leagues where Tom Waddell met Sara Lewinstein. Thus, the roots of the Gay Games can be traced to those leagues held at Park Bowl on Haight Street a half-block from Golden Gate Park.]

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The Gay Games I medal

SARA WADDELL-LEWINSTEIN: My women's bowling team won the Gold Medal. After receiving the medal and placing it around my neck, I quickly left for the Powerlifting / Weightlifting event, where I had been asked to give out their medals. When I walked into the facility, everything stopped! The place was full of people who all started standing up and clapping.

I quickly turned to see what they were clapping at, only to find that the whole place was clapping for me! They had not seen the medals yet, and here I was, walking in wearing one of the very first ones to of been given out. I proceeded to hold up my medal for everyone to see, and they could not stop cheering. I was in tears holding it and could not believe what was happening.

This was definitely a very special moment for me.

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Charlie Carson (L); Hal Herkenhoff (R) at Gay Games I

(L to R) Steve Smetzer; Ric Bohner; James Ozanich; GGI 50 yard Backstroke at Gay Games I. Photo: Charlie Carson

CHARLIE CARSON: Morning of the first competition, with finals for longer distance events and the 100 yd. Mixed Gender Relays. See the heat sheets and I get that same old swim meet feeling I hadn’t had in six years. And then I tell myself I’m too old to be nervous and that calms me down: will just do my best. I’ve clipped my body hair but haven’t decided yet whether to shave down.

Swimming has about 125 participants. The hot hunks are Richard Hunter of L.A., Chris Dale of Minnesota, and Berkeley’s Hal Herkenhoff. New York guy Blake shows up and says he wants to swim only the 50 Fly before heading to the Russian River. We’re in the same age group so the one-person-per-city rule governs. Since I’m in most all the other sprints I say OK.  Bomb the 200 IM – not happy with my time – still, seriously, what did I expect training on my own at NYU? But then I start qualifying for some event finals.

Turns out there are no national caliber athletes. We are all pretty much second tier swimmers who had some local age group and, for a few, collegiate success – with several recreational swimmers like Australian Bobby Goldsmith who, during the warmups, we’re teaching to touch with two hands in breaststroke. Bobby entered almost every event in the 36-45 age group; he’s bubbly and charmingly clueless about swimming rules. I squeak through into the 50 Free at 6th. I’m second in the 100 Back and feel better. After Blake qualifies for the 50 Fly, we put together a 100 Mixed Medley Relay with Californians Allison Tierney and Karen Cagle. Our relay wins and I have a gold medal – the pressure is off! Yay! Do a Men’s 100 Medley Relay with Blake, Bobby Goldsmith and another guy (whose name I’ve forgotten), but we don’t place. Blake leaves for the Russian River.

Jeff and the other divers can’t warm up because the 1650 Freestyle takes too long. He becomes fast friends with Minnesota’s Lynn Johnston, the only female diver. Swimmers hang out watching the track and field events next door. Meet Ron Kirkhoff and Steve Smetzer (L.A. – so many from L.A.!). In the showers afterwards, L.A.’s Rick Bohner says about me, “Look at those buns!” Café San Marcos for dinner. Hang out with Steve in the evening and head back to Dominic’s early to get plenty of sleep for tomorrow.

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Read the entire "Passing The Torch" series as it is posted daily HERE.

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