IGLA 2003 Diving & Swimming Other Swim Groups
Catch the Waveby Jim Provenzano
Bay Area Reporter
Over a thousand swimmers, water polo players, divers, and even synchronized swimmers will navigate highways and byways toward Palo Alto's Stanford University August 22-24 for the annual International Gay & Lesbian Aquatics meet, hosted by San Francisco Tsunami.
Competition and events run Friday through Sunday, from 9am to 5pm each day, concluded with the hilarious and festive Pink Flamingos water ballet show (Sunday at 4pm).
Casey Cheung, co-chair of IGLA '03, plans on swimming in a couple of events between the gallons of duties organizing this large-scale event.
"Considering that this is the largest IGLA yet, things are going relatively smoothly," he said. "We were worried about registration, and had concerns about our numbers. But there was quite a surge at the last minute."
Some budget revisions helped accommodate the costs of renting Stanford's three pools.
Along with increased training, fundraising parties became a regular part of their schedule. "The benefits helped tremendously," said Cheung. "We raised a lot of the money that we do need, upwards of $30,000. That will help us defray our costs."
"The team really got together for each of the events, not just for swimming or polo, but for IGLA. We're also very visible as a team, having had the largest contingent at Gay Games."
"In Sydney, we really made an effort to promote it, and to talk to teams who don't normally compete," said Cheung. "We have people from Frankfurt, Japan, Argentina, Melbourne and New Zealand attending, who haven't generally been represented. Being the host city has been a draw, not only because it's San Francisco, but where we are on the Pacific Rim, allowing people from the South Pacific to attend."
Even regional groups like the Long Beach, CA team, which is bringing 30 participants, are arriving with Speedos, goggles, and a lot of enthusiasm.
"It's nice to see new teams growing," said Cheung, a native of nearby Danville, who first started swimming while visiting a cousin in Hong Kong during junior high school.
Held only once outside North America (Paris in 2000), the event does have larger US and Canadian contingents.
"That's been a barrier, the perception that it's very US-dominated, and it is," said Cheung. "But we've been making an effort to get people to participate."
While Paris will send thirty swimmers, London's Out To Swim is only bringing nine swimmers. Most stayed in England, where Eurogames, held this year in Manchester, is also next weekend.
Sixteen teams, from US cities Chicago, San Diego, West Hollywood, New York, Seattle, Washington, DC, Atlanta; Canada's Vancouver, Montreal, and Toronto; even an Australian squad, guarantee a diverse array of talents - and accents - among the over 250 poloists.
Tyler Schnoebelen, Tsunami Water Polo president, has enjoyed two years with the team. As a teen in Iowa, he had played "jungle ball," a recreational version of water polo.
In college at Yale, he was a fencer, but has often swum recreationally. After moving to San Francisco, while looking at working out beyond the gym, his boyfriend suggested a team sport.
"A friend was a swimmer who played water polo, and it seemed more fun than swim practices." This led to a sense of community in the sport.
"You begin with a drive for competition and fitness, but what you happen into is this great group of people who wouldn't necessarily connect for different reasons. We have artists, CEOs of companies; the social environment is really compelling."
Tsunami now has three teams; an A, B and C squad. "Our intention was to break it down, and make an A Team that's really an elite squad, said Schnoebelen.
With twelve players for each six-position match, he said, "Rotating is part of coaching, getting playing time for all."
Schnoebelen described the varied skills needed, such as, "sprinting down twenty-five yards, teetering up at as high as you can. You're rotating, thrusting the ball, then dashing back to defend the other way twenty-five yards, pushing up on people that are really strong athletes."
With one pool devoted to water polo, he said it's "definitely one of the best places to watch water polo. You'll see all the moves."
Todd Aghazadeh noted the growth that's occurred just in the past two years.
"In the Open Division, Tsunami-A was fourth at its first IGLA in Toronto in 2001. Tsunami-B was tenth, or, as said by B-team goalie Brian Shepp, 'That's means we were the worst gay team in the world!' But then, in Sydney, Tsunami-A got third, and the B team seventh, becoming a strong top team among the non-medal contenders finalists."
Tsunami's Virginia Alber-Glanstaetten described her squad as "a mix of women players who played in college and high school, and aren't regular players."
She said that Oakland's team calls themselves 'The Grey Hairs,' "But they're really solid players in terms of consistency." She credits Tsunami's Beth Burkhart for having made "an incredible effort to get women together, and making it happen."
Alber-Glanstaetten's two years playing with Tsunami were preceded by swimming in high school, "but no polo playing, and nothing really competitive. I wanted the opportunity to do something else."
She practices regularly at Martin Luther King pool with "the boys," as she calls them. Tsunami's women's team has fifteen players, "a strong group, well above intermediate level," she said.
Dana Hunter coaches water polo at Carlmont High School in Belmont. For two years, she's scrimmaged with Tsunami, but didn't start swimming until recently.
A native of Redwood City, she started swimming in her early 30s, after quitting smoking. Recruited for IGLA after having practiced with Tsunami a few times, Hunter had swum at Masters tournaments, and even went to Nationals as a distance swimmer.
Although she prefers individual swimming, "You count on yourself in competition," Hunter said, "I couldn't turn down the possibility of playing at Stanford. I go to Masters meets all the times. You never see water polo at a swim meet."
She's interested in seeing how the competition plays out. "There's a goodwill nature, but it's also pretty aggressive," said Hunter. "I'm interested to see how people who are more experienced hold back, and how (less experienced players) prevent themselves from being scrappy."
Although only 25, Carl Anhalt has spent five years with WH20, and is concluding his second year as IGLA Co-President at the Championships, and his term as WH2O's Vice President.
WH2O is fielding its first women's team this year. 1999's IGLA in Atlanta included a women's exhibition game, but this year will be their first actual tournament.
"Our two open teams are more balanced this year, so even though they will be seeded first and fourth (based on our finishes in Sydney), it?s really either team's game this year," said Anhalt.
"We won't know if this strategy will work for us, or against us. Will we lose the title because we spread the talent too thin? It should be an exciting year for our open teams as well. We have a number of players who are new to the team since Sydney, including several women."
Look for Tsunami to be determined to topple the LA champs.
"We've heard that the West Hollywood team is pretty cocky," mused Tsunami's Todd Aghazadeh. "They've said they divided their teams evenly, and they'll still be the top two teams because they're so good. We intend to surprise them."
Tsunami's Schnoebelen added, with a competitive assurance, "All that glitters is not always gold."
Formed in October 2001 in preparation for the Gay Games 2002, the Sydney Stingers finished in eighth position out of the fifteen open teams at the 2002 Games.
"We are very excited to be competing in our first IGLA meet," said Wegg. "We're also looking forward to catching up with all the friends we made at the Gay Games, and some time in the sun! We're in the middle of our winter here, which has made it hard to train. Our pools are mostly outdoors. But we'll be there to have fun, enjoy ourselves and play a competitive game."
"Our team was born out of being the host city for the last IGLA Championships in 2001," said Freihofer. "Toronto didn't have a water polo team at the time. But several of us, volunteers for the matches, realized how much fun the game is and made a pact to establish a team."
After recruiting and organizational meetings, "We had a core group of twelve founding members, and we've now grown to thirty-plus dues-paying members."
"No one on the team had any previous water polo experience before joining," said Freihofer. "But we have a great coach, who also coaches a local university varsity team here, and he's really helped us progress."
Having entered five other tournaments over the last 18 months, this will be the Triggerfish's first competition at a level this high. "We're excited to see how we rank against some of the more established international teams out there."
The English Bay Water Polo Club of Vancouver, BC, will have in its ranks three founding players who've been with the team since its inception in 1989. They've participated in the past four Gay Games.
"We participate every year at our provincial championships (similar to state championships)," said Gilles Beaudin. "We were at Seattle's inaugural tournament but not since." They hope that their recent regrouping will result in getting back to the finals standings they enjoyed back in 1990's Vancouver Games.
Despite Canada's recent gay marriage law being passed, team reps up north reported no newlyweds among their ranks.
Despite 200 helpers, IGLA still needs volunteers for many functions, including serving poolside as timers and staffing information desks. Email email@example.com. Why wouldn't you want to help out a thousand Speedo-clad jocks?
Always wanted to try water polo? Well, here's your chance. Take a free clinic on Saturday, August 23, from 11AM-1:00pm, at IGLA, hosted by Tsunami Polo, and conducted by San Diego Cygnet's player Anthony Morandi and coach Cliff Williams.
Learn the many fundamentals of the game in a crash course that will end with a scrimmage. This clinic is focused on beginner-level players, with a special call to new women players or people from a swim team looking to start a polo team.
Visit the Evite to find out more. If you are a decent swimmer, you should check out the sport with other rookies.
If you're simply a swimming fan, Stanford's Avery Aquatic Center seats 2500, so there'll be plenty of room, Best yet, entry and parking are free.
Three fun events are part of the wonderfully wet weekend, and they're all in San Francisco.
FRIDAY: "Viva Variety 33," a variety show, August 22, starts at 8pm. Most Holy Redeemer Church at 100 Diamond at 18th Street. $15. Proceeds benefit Shanti. www.makeitsoproductions.org.
SATURDAY: Tsunami Water Polo's latest Splish!, will be at Studio Z, 314 11th St., Saturday, August 23, 10:00pm - 2:00am. The infamous Heklina of Trannyshack fame (and most recently, a fabulous Bjork number) will be your hostess for the evening. $10 / advance, $15 / door. (415) 252-7666
SUNDAY: IGLA'S Closing Banquet and Dance Party, August 24 from 7:30pm to 3am at Ruby Skye, 420 Mason Street (at Geary. ($48 for the banquet and dance, $15 for the dance only, beginning at 10:00 pm).
For more info, visit: IGLA2003.ORG