Donal Óg backs Gay Games athletes

HURLING legend Donal Óg Cusack has given his full support to gay athletes who came out yesterday ahead of their participation in the Gay Games this summer.

Top swimming instructor and Gay Games medallist Eilís Burns, said she hopes their decision will be an example to others in a similar situation.

“There have been a lot of suicides, especially amongst young people, who are afraid to come out. We hope that our decision will send out the message that it’s OK,” Eilís said.

Eilís, a swimming coach at the Source Health and Fitness Centre, Silversprings Hotel, Cork, and her 25 Cork team-mates will be part of the 60-strong Irish team travelling to Cologne in July for the 10-day event.

Coach of the Irish Open Water Swimming organisation, coach of the Cork Masters swim team and she holds the national record for her age in the 200m individual medley, she is currently coaching seven people bidding to swim the channel this season and is one of the country’s best medal hopes.

Winner of five gold medals – in the 200m individual medley, 100m and 50m fly, and the 100m and 50 metres breast – and one silver – in the 2006 Chicago games, she is hoping to repeat that success this year.

She will compete in a range of swimming events and in the triathlon, in which she will compete against her partner, Yvonne. “While there is a fun element to the games, they are also hugely competitive,” she said.

The mini Olympics-style Gay Games was first mooted in 1980 by Dr Tom Waddell, a 1968 Olympic decathlete. It was set up primarily for gay athletes but it is described as an open and inclusive event that welcomes straight athletes. The first event in San Francisco in 1982 attracted over 1,300 competitors.

Waddell lost his battle with Aids in July 1987 but the games went from strength to strength.

In 1990, the Vancouver games hosted 7,500 athletes. In 2006, Chicago attracted over 11,500. Up to 12,000 are expected to take part in the Cologne games, starting on July 31.

Lord Mayor of Cork, Cllr Dara Murphy, will host a reception for athletes in City Hall tonight.

The Irish team will compete in events like soccer, golf, swimming, badminton, triathlon and cycling and are hoping to secure sponsorship.

Meanwhile, gay hurler Donal Óg Cusack was featured in an article on his book, Come What May, in the Los Angeles Times yesterday.

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