Tsunami swimmers at the Games
by Jim Provenzano
In the Chicago Gay Games, Tsunami Swim Club members showed the world their best through team spirit, competitive greatness, and unending support for their fellow swimmers.
"Even though we had an admirable number of medal winners, we also enthusiastically cheered each other on through close races and first time swims, personal bests as well as off times," said Tsunami President Alissa Perrucci (who contributed the results to this column). "Swimmers did not back down from grueling distance and stroke races."
The six days of competition was marked by solidarity, community, and the joy of being a part of the greatness of the Gay Games.
On Saturday, July 15, as most athletes were merely getting ready for opening ceremonies or settling into their hotel rooms, swimmers were already in the pool for two events, the 800-meter freestyle and the 200-meter individual medley.
In the 800-meter, gold medals went to Tsunami coaches Lisa Congdon and Steve Martel. The silver went to Guy Decker, a stand out in the 60-64 age group, and veteran Tsunami member Neil Hart, who won a bronze. Distance freestyler, water polo player, and long-time Tsunami member Larry Fry also competed, achieving a personal best.
The second event that morning was the 200-meter IM. Golds went to Colleen Golden in the women's 30-34 age group and Rick Atondo in the men's 55-59 age group. Gold medalist Win Chesson, in the men's 18-24 age group, set a new Gay Games record. Jeff Ruda pulled in a bronze.
The 200-meter butterfly opened the individual events on Sunday, July 16. Steve Murray (who recently produced the Theatre Rhino staging of Trog!) achieved personal bests in butterfly races.
Martel earned the silver in the men's 35-39 age group. Jason Prodoehl's race was described by Perrucci as "smooth and unwavering, all the more impressive because he had completed the one-mile open water swim earlier that morning."
Held at a pier on Lake Michigan, other open water competitors were Sabrina Spear (gold), Prodoehl (bronze), Jeff Edwards (fifth), Ben Hu (eighth), and Jack Hubbard (fifth). Also that morning, Philip Vitale and Trent Lethco competed in their first-ever triathlon.
Back at the university pool, the highly competitive 100-meter freestyle saw Congdon win a silver, Spear a bronze, and David Ahlman a silver.
Zach Notario, Marcus Chung, Eric Yen, and Brad Hise each came in under a minute. Golden out-touched her competition by three one-hundredths of a second. Kurt Kleespies completed his 100-meter at 1:10.
In team breaststroke, growing larger at each of Tsunami's championship meets, Perrucci won the silver in the women's 35-39 age group. Richard Fabian won the silver in the men's 60-64 age group, and Atondo took the bronze in the men's 55-59 age group.
Eleven other Tsunami male swimmers, including Tsynchro athletes Ricardo Pacheco and Bob Wheeler, competed with strong swims.
In the 400-meter freestyle, held late in the day on July 17, gold went to Congdon, silvers to Martel and Decker, and bronze to Spear. Mark White's 400-meter freestyle was tense, "but in characteristic fashion he kept on pace and pulled ahead of his competition at the end, finishing in under five minutes," said Perrucci.
In the 50-meter butterfly, Chesson won the gold, and Golden and Eric Yen won the bronze. Nine other Tsunamis also competed in that race in various age groups.
Team Breaststroke returned for the 200-meter, where Decker won the gold, Atondo the silver, and Perrucci won a bronze. Matt Chappell had a personal best and an outstanding swim, crushing the 3:00 mark with a 2:48.33. Seven other San Francisco swimmers competed strongly in this event.
The final event of the day was the 100-meter backstroke. Felicia Ferlin, Tsunami's only female backstroker, proved to be a strong competitor. Ahlman got the gold; Chung got the silver, and Brian Fitzgibbons the bronze. Backstroker Dave Froehlich swam a 1:09.51.
Tuesday, July 18, began with the 100-meter IM. Pacheco won the gold in the men's 55-59 and broke the Gay Games record, and Chesson got the silver.
In the 200-meter freestyle, Ahlman won the gold breaking the Gay Games record for the men's 55-59 age group. Chung and Martel won the silver, and Spear won the bronze. Vitale did an impressive 2:40.73. In the 50-meter backstroke, Ahlman pulled in another gold and Gay Games record.
The final individual event of Tuesday was the 100-meter butterfly. Chesson won the gold in the men's 18-24 age group, breaking the Gay Games record. Yen won the silver in the men's 30-34 age group. Keith Myers's time was superb, and Murray had a personal best, which he broke again just minutes later in the butterfly leg of his relay.
After four days of competition, th
In the women's 50-meter freestyle, Congdon pulled in another gold and Spear a bronze in the women's 50-54 age group. Ahlman won the silver, and Chung and Fitzgibbons each won the bronze. Among six other sprinters, Chung and Hise each broke 26 seconds.
Backstrokers reconvened for the 200-meter, where Ferlin and Chung won bronze. The last individual event of Wednesday was the 100-meter breaststroke, where Atondo won silver, and Perrucci and Chappell won the bronze.
Tsunami dominated in the men's 60-64 age group. Decker, Richard Fabian, and Will Fabis won the gold, silver, and bronze respectively.
There were also some notable relays through the week of the Games. In the 200-meter medley relay, Tsunami men (combined ages 200-239) Fitzgibbons, Chappell, Fabian, and Froehlich won silver and bronze in the 800-meter freestyle relay. In an exciting race, Hise, Froehlich, Martel, and Chung won the gold in the men's 120-159. In the 200-meter freestyle relay, the mixed team of Chung, Congdon, Perrucci, and Chesson won the gold.
The women's 160-199 team (Spear, Thomas, Golden, Ferlin) pulled in a bronze in the 200-meter freestyle relay and silver in the 400-meter freestyle relay. The mixed team of Martel, Perrucci, Chung, and Congdon won gold in the 400-meter medley relay and the mixed team of Perrucci, Congdon, Yen, and Martel won gold in the 400-meter freestyle relay. Tsunami's All-Star Men 240-279 (Hart, Fabis, Fabian, Decker) won the silver in the 400-meter freestyle relay.
Friday, July 21, in the final day of competition, Thomas had a fantastic swim in her favorite race, the 1500-meter freestyle. Perrucci won the gold in the women 35-39. Decker and Hart got the gold and silver in the men's 60-64 age group.
For Prodoehl and Hubbard, this was their second mile race of the Games. In the last two heats, White, Froehlich, and Hise had impressive swims with Froehlich and Hise each pulling in a silver.
In an example of their team spirit, Tsunamis stayed until the end to cheer on their teammates in the last of the races, as five Tsunami swimmers competed in the 400-, 800-, and 1500-meter freestyle.
One week later at the Outgames, held in Montreal July 29-August 5, Tsunami participants in swimming included Ernst Halperin, Ernesto (Che) Gonzalez, David Hu, Ben Hu, Chesson, Ahlman, Loc Le, Christophe Crombez, Andres Wydler, Gary Orth, Oscar Velasquez, Miko Midolo, Ken Lindquist, Ralph Doore, and Chris Hall.
Additionally, Ian Moate, who regularly swims with Tsunami and lives in San Francisco, competed with Sydney Wett Ones because of master swimming registration rules (according to swimmer Hall). He took a gold in the 4x100 mixed free relay.
The meet was held in the same pool of the 1976 Montreal Olympics. Even afterward, Tsunami swimmer Hall recalled the large flat panel televisions in several areas around town with clips of the previous day's events. "Repeatedly, I was stopped in the street and asked by locals how the competition was going, how I liked Montreal, etc. It made a huge difference in terms of atmosphere," said Hall.
"The only complaint I can make was the OutSplash," said Hall of the event that closely imitated the traditional IGLA/Gay Games event known as Pink Flamingo. "It was a bit dull, because of so few participants. Montreal's opening was a bit over the top, overly-produced with lights and smoke and didn't really seem in the spirit or theme of the Pink Flamingo tradition. I'm glad it was free for aquatics participants, it wouldn't have been worth paying to see."
On October 8, Tsunami celebrated 20 years of accomplishments at a party held at Levende Lounge on Mission Street. And last Saturday, Tsunami Tsynchro team members continued the tradition of helping other communities by giving a performance at a fundraiser for Magnet, the gay men's health center in the Castro. Held at the Phoenix Hotel, Tsynchro synchronized swimming athletes performed in the hotel's pool to an appreciative audience.