United States: The only Chinese citizen taking part in the Gay Games in the United States has won a silver medal after finishing second in the 50-meter breaststroke event for men aged between 18 and 24.
The 22-year-old, who asked only to be identified as Liu Shi won during the ninth Gay Games Aug 9-16 in Cleveland, Ohio, where more than 8,000 people took part.
Liu announced his medal success on Aug 12 on his Sina Weibo account, a day after winning his medal, according to china.org.cn.
“I just came to the games out of curiosity and never expected that I could win a medal,” he was quoted as saying.
Liu finished the race in 40 seconds, 10 seconds behind the winner. He also took part in the 100m and 200m breaststroke races but did not win any medals.
Liu, who was born in Taiyuan, Shanxi province, is not a professional swimmer and had graduated from a university in Beijing two years ago where he works to promote gay rights.
Liu said he realized he was gay while in middle school and told his family and friends in 2011 and that he faced prejudice and a lack of understanding which was one of the main reasons he wanted to participate in the games.
After he announced he had won the medal, some people left negative comments online. “I’ve gotten used to that, though I still feel a little bit angry,” Liu said. “It doesn’t matter, I enjoy what I’m doing.”
He said he was surprised at the level of support from the people of Cleveland for the games as many events were held in schools and hospitals offered medical care for athletes who suffered injuries. Even city buses were decorated with Gay Games banners.
Liu said that, as the lone participant from China, he was made very welcome by other competitors who encouraged him and wished him luck.
The Gay Games website points out that everyone can be part of the Gay Games, whatever their sexual orientation. Participants compete in a range of sports including the popular badminton, soccer, golf and figure skating.
Since 1982, the Gay Games have empowered thousands of LGBT athletes and artists through sport, culture, and fellowship and have been hosted in seven cities in five countries on three continents.
It has built an international legacy of changing cultural, social and political attitudes towards LGBT people, at the same time empowering thousands since the early 1980s when LGBT athletes were a hidden community and being gay and an athlete was an either-or proposition.
The next Gay Games will be held in Paris in 2018.