International Gay Figure Skating Union
FLURRY OF TALENT
by Jim Provenzano
Figure skating at Gay Games VI proved a wonderful community bridge-builder in a great facility, despite being a bit out of the way at Macquarie Ice Rink in suburban North Sydney.
Being set in the middle of Sydney's largest shopping mall, with windows overlooking the rink from a McDonald's, offered a Big Mac's eye view.
Knowing that unlike the messy events of Gay Games V, medals would actually be awarded, proved a relief. In 1998, a volley of disagreements between skating unions and Dutch Games organizers left many figure skaters bereft, despite the token medals doled out to all competitors at what was hastily renamed a "public practice."
Having completed two lengthy days of competition, a diverse mix of skaters got to cut loose and show off their favorite creative routines on the Friday of Gay Games week at a gala showcase performance. From novices to Olympic competitors, it was a festive show played to a sold out house.
Solos, duets, and both amusing and somber group routines were performed. Former Olympians, some even retired, came to Sydney to performer, including Jouquin Guerrero Sandoval, and David MacLean, the Australian former novice pairs champion, whose "Swan Lake" left a few feathers on the ice amid the congratulatory tossed flowers.
New York's Laura Moore, a founder of the International Gay & Lesbian Figure Skating Union, whose work led to the first inclusion of figure skating at Gay Games IV in New York, looked resplendent in a form-fitting glittery rainbow body suit. Her designer? "Me!" she bubbled.
She had reason to smile, having won yet another three medals, including her Creative section, which layered multiple drag costumes in a gender-bending and amusing display.
San Franciscan novice skater Alan Lessik took a butch theme with his leather straps & chaps look, and won two silver medals, after almost canceling his Sydney trip because of a back injury earlier this year.
Lessik had traveled extensively through New Zealand post-Games, and displayed a few aboriginal musical instruments bought along his tour. He noted the frequency of hand-made signs boasting former Lord of the Rings film shot locations.
"I think they filmed everyplace," he said. "After a while, it became commonplace to see the signs."
Games skating is known for its creativity, and one aspect included a group decision to forego strict timing limitations. Faced with a diverse array of talents, the judges sometimes chose those who kept within time limitations as a means for judging.
Kobayashi has lived in San Francisco his whole life, but didn't start skating until age 23.
We chatted via phone, where he enjoyed a few extra days in New York, where he was stuck there, due to East Coast blizzards. He was set to perform at the Winter Classic in the Masters category.
His now celebrated Michelle Kwan routine, sadly may be retired. He won in his category last April in Anne Arbor at the Nationals Exhibition Gala doing the whimsical Kwan impersonation, which also wowed Sydney audiences.
In the Spotight category at the Games, Kobayashi won gold for his shorter number, set to music by American Idol Kelly Clarkson's hit single.
At 42 years old, he's now focusing on training for the Masters competitions in regional events, as well as his regular classes Monday through Thursday, instructing newbies and kids at Yerba Buena.
Having toured the world with Disney on Ice from 1997-2000, Mangz played Hades from Hercules, and other characters. He mentioned that while the work was exhausting, he got to do what he enjoys most, skating, albeit occasionally in stuffy costumes.
At Gay Games, playing himself resulted in two gold medals.
Although having light-heartedly mentioned in his announced bio that he was single, after ripping off his T-shirt to show off his muscles during his dazzling routine set to George Michaels' "Freedom," Mangz said, "Actually, I got a few business cards."
Mangz also proved popular on Sydney's Bondi Beach during his off days, clad only in a Speedo.
The fourth installment of the Mountain Cup, an open international adult skating competition, was held in Villard-de-Lans, France on May 16 - 19, 2002. It was a rare opportunity for a handful of Gay Games VI skaters to meet, compete and enjoy the high altitudes of the French Alps. European skaters were also given the chance to get their ISI testing out of the way thanks to a few US coaches on hand
Gay Games VI competitors who premiered some of their routines included Frank Graber (Switzerland), Bradley Erickson (USA), Bettina Keil (Germany), Wade Corbett (USA), Laura Moore (USA), Mario Manns (Germany), and Jean-Francois Col (France).
Several Games competitors also skated at the Pacific Coast Adult Sectional Championships & West Coast Adult Open in mid-March at the Yerba Buena Ice Skating Center, 750 Folsom St. in San Francisco. The popular rink also offers an array of lessons for kids and adults. The SF Quakes Hockey team also competes there.
Get info on the San Francisco Skating Club here.
For a lovely array of Figure Skating, other sports, and Australian scenic images, visit www.rickmonk.com.
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GAY GAMES VI FIGURE SKATING BAY AREA MEDALISTS
(Classes are determined by age, Class I is 25-35, Class II 35-45, and Class III is 45 and up.)
Dan Ashbrook - 3rd place Solo Spotlight Men, Freestyle 5 Class II & III
Lawrence Janssen - 3rd place Solo Artistic Men, Freestyle 1 & 2 Class II & III
Jay Kobayashi - 1st place Solo Spotlight Men, Freestyle 6 Class II, 4th place Solo Artistic Men, Freestyle 6 Class II, 1st place Couples Spotlight Men Class II with Bradley Erickson (NY City)
Ward Kokubun - 1st place Solo Spotlight Men, Fresstyle 4 Class IIB, 4th place Solo Artistic Men, Freestyle 4 Class II
Richard Lennon - 3rd place Solo Artistic Men, Freestyle 3, Class I & II
Alan Lessik - 2nd place Solo Artistic Men, Freestyle 1&2, Class II & III, 2nd place Solo Spotlight Men, Freestyle 1 & 2, Class II & III
John Manzon-Santos - 1st place Solo Artistic Men, Freestyle 1 & 2, Class II & III, 1st place Solo Spotlight Men, Freestyle 1 & 2 Class II & III
Thom Mullins - 1st place Solo Artistic Men, Freestyle 3 Class I & II, 2nd place Solo Spotlight Men, Freestyle 3 Class I & II
Christopher Sullivan - 1st place Solo Artistic Men, Freestyle 6 Class I, 1st place Solo Spotlight Men, Freestyle 6 Class I
Harry Wing - 3rd place Solo Spotlight Men, Freestyle 6 Class II, 4th place Solo Artistic Men, Freestyle 6 Class II