There must be something special in the water just north of Greater Cleveland. The Gay Games 9 (GG9) arrived in the cities of Akron and Cleveland with a Boom! The energy and excitement of an estimated 9,000 participants and 20,000 spectators from 45 countries covered our hometown of Cleveland in every color of the rainbow. Athletes and their fans from around the world waved their home country’s flag alongside the equality flag in grandstands throughout the region.
I arrived at the East 9th Street Pier at 4:30 am on Sunday morning. The Terminal Tower pulsed in the colors of the rainbow interrupting the darkness of the early morning. Down at the waterfront, the atmosphere was buzzing with the anticipation of hundreds of athletes preparing to compete in the sprint and Olympic distance triathlons against the backdrop of the Rock’n’Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, the Great Lakes Science Center, the Steamship William G. Mather, First Energy Stadium, and the Goodtime III. Pumping music was blasting from the loudspeakers and the dawn crept over the horizon, as Lake Erie appeared calm and 72 degrees. Perfect conditions for a triathlon.
The transition area hummed with a multitude of international dialects, racers greeting and welcoming each other with embraces and warm smiles. Couples held hands, athletes and their support crews edged closer to the swim dock as the start time drew near. Billy Morris proved that “Cleveland Rocks!” by playing one of the best renditions of the National Anthem I’ve ever heard. Loud cheers erupted from the crowd, many people exclaiming how awesome Billy was.
I met a couple from Florida (Gary and Andy) who noticed my sweatshirt from Ironman Coeur d’Alene, and I discovered that Andy had also done IM CdA, and Gary Iron-Fanned for his partner. It turns out that Gary had also worked the medical tent at REV3 Venice, a half-Ironman distance course I’d raced last November. Good thing I didn’t meet Gary in Venice, because that means I’d have landed in the med tent. We watched as Andy prepared to cue up for the swim, and I lost him in the crowd. I remember Gary saying, as we parted, “I’d like to do a sprint next year”. Another one hooked on multisport.
Most age group triathletes, as a whole, are somewhat homogeneous. The Gay Games 9 triathlon wasn’t much different. Yes, there were the occasional sparkly men’s swim bikini bottoms and a gal in a pink tutu, but that’s par for the course at most triathlons, not just the Gay Games. That’s what I love about our sport: it doesn’t matter if you wear rainbow colors, or if your friends are tri-fanning for you wearing outrageous outfits and holding signs about pooping in your pants. The Gay Games 9 Cleveland adopted the phrase “Go All Out” as their tag line, and that’s exactly what these athletes did. There was an atmosphere of acceptance and openness that isn’t often felt as palpably as it was that Sunday morning at the water’s edge of Lake Erie.
Carb Boom! Energy Gel™ is proud to be a sponsor and partner with the Gay Games 9 in the Cleveland-Akron area. We were out on-course supporting events such as the sprint and Olympic triathlons, the half- and full marathons, mountain biking, cycling time trials and criterium, as well as the open water swim and rock climbing competitions.