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Give a Medal to These 104 Winning Instagram Pics from 'Gay Games 9' in Cleveland: PHOTOS

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Gay Games 9 kicked off on Saturday in Cleveland, Ohio. The Games, conceived in 1980 by Dr. Tom Waddell and held every four years beginning in 1982, are open to all athletes regardless of sexual orientation and are expected to unite more than 9,000 mostly-LGBT participants and 30,000 spectators from around the world in competition and celebration, including a team from Russia:

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There are more than 35 sports and cultural events taking place and out Olympians Greg Louganis and (a newly engaged) Blake Skjellerup are in attendance. Lance Bass, who performed at the Opening Ceremony (which included a message from President Obama and another performance by The Pointer Sisters), has been busy about town.

Team

While competition has just begun to get fully underway and continues through the 16th we've collected 104 of our favorite Instagram photos and videos taken by athletes and spectators at the Opening Ceremony, parties, preparations and medal events that have already taken place.

And if you're at the Gay Games and have a great photo that you would like us to share, tag us @TLRD on Instagram or Twitter. Good luck to all the athletes who are competing!

Check out our big gay Gay Games gallery, and see if you can pick out some familiar faces, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Give a Medal to These 104 Winning Instagram Pics from 'Gay Games 9' in Cleveland: PHOTOS" »


Speed-Skater Blake Skjellerup Reveals Engagement to Boyfriend Saul Carrasco

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Speed skater Blake Skjellerup took some time out of his busy schedule at the Gay Games in Cleveland to show off his new fiancé - stylist Saul Carrasco.

Wrote Skjellerup:   

The Plain Dealer adds that the duo have have tentative plans to marry next year in Hawaii.

Skjellerup, who was a torch bearer at the Gay Games Opening Ceremony on Sunday, will be competing in the 23 mile cycling circuit road course tomorrow. 

Congrats boys and best of luck to Skjellerup in tomorrow's race!

[photo via Instagram]


Gay Speed Skater Blake Skjellerup Fails to Qualify for Sochi Olympics, is First Alternate for 500M

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Gay speed skater Blake Skjellerup, who had promised to wear a rainbow pin to the Sochi games and "be myself" in Russia, has failed to qualify, Outsports reports:

SkjellerupSkjellerup, who was poised to become the first publicly out gay male competitor in Winter Olympics history, competed in the 2010 Winter Olympics before coming out publicly. He finished 16th in the 1000-meter in Vancouver. As of now, there will be no publicly out male athletes competing in Sochi.

There is still a chance for Skjellerup to get to Sochi. Because he finished 33rd in the world rankings of the 500-meter, he is the first alternate for the Olympic Games. That means if any of the qualifying nations choose not to send a skater for their qualifying spot, Skjellerup would be the next in line. Officials at US Speed Skating said he has a long shot at the 1000-meter, but that is a distant long shot as he is the fifth or sixth alternate.

Skjellerup missed by one spot. More at Outsports...


American Apparel's New 'Principle 6' Protest Merchandise Targets Sochi Games, Russia's Anti-gay Laws

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LGBT organizations All Out and Athlete Ally have partnered with American Apparel in the creation of Principle 6, a new line of merchandise that aims to use the Olympic committee's very own charter language as a way for consumers to stand in solidarity with gay Russians, athletes, and visitors during the upcoming Sochi Games. The New York Times reports:

RoddickThe proponents of the Principle 6 campaign say it can be effective because it will avoid the Olympic commtitee's strictures against political statements or demonstrations by using the committee's own language as a rallying cry for nondiscrimination. The line of Principle 6 branded merchandise will bear a rewritten version of the principle's declaration: "Sport does not discriminate on the grounds of race, religion, politics, gender or otherwise." (The paraphrase also serves to avoid another sticky issue: The Olympic committee is zealous in its policing of the use of the words "Olympic" or "Olympics" by anyone other than its members and official sponsors.)

...

Andre Banks, executive director of All Out, said the merchandise "allows us to deliver the Principle 6 message on a scale that would make the campaign incredibly powerful."

American Apparel is to sell the merchandise online, beginning early Monday morning, and in stores around the world, beginning on Jan. 1. The line will include T-shirts, hoodies, hats, bags and underwear. The proceeds from the sales of the merchandise, minus the costs, "will go to benefit Russian LGBT groups in St. Petersburg and Moscow," Mr. Banks said.

At least four dozen athletes have already committed to working with the campaign including out speed skater Blake Skjellerup, U.S. runner and ally Nick Symmonds, out former Olympic diver Greg Louganis, and tennis player Andy Roddick (above).


Speed-Skater Blake Skjellerup On Sochi Olympics: 'I Will Be Myself In Russia'

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Though he is still waiting to find out if his trial times will qualify him for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Blake Skjellerup already has big plans for the games. The openly gay speed skater has said that, despite the consequences it may incur, he will wear a rainbow pin while competing in Russia as previously announced. The pin (noted by Stephen Colbert last night) is a show of solidarity and support for the oppressed LGBT population there, and acts as a pointed message to President Vladimir Putin. Russia's anti-gay propaganda laws have been devastating for LGBT folks thus far, and the extent of the laws' reach under the global gaze of millions during the Olympics is still unknown. One thing's for sure: that rainbow pin will be a bold personal, and global, statement.

The Guardian reports:

"I will be myself in Russia," [Skjellerup] says. "And at the moment that is illegal. My goal is to inspire, encourage and offer support to LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender] people in Russia.

"I would love for Putin to get to know me. I would tell him how much I disagree with his oppressive anti-gay propaganda laws, and that he has a responsibility as the president of Russia to represent all the people of his country."

Last week, while competing in Kolomna in Russia, Skjellerup arranged a secret meeting with gay activists to find out how bad things are in the country. While reluctant to give too much information in case it identifies those people he spoke to, he admits the stories he heard "chilled him".

BlakeskatesSkjellerup was able to connect his own experience as a put-upon, closeted teenager in New Zealand with the intense pain LGBT youth must be feeling throughout Russia. 

"School was never very fun," he adds. "I'm not a religious person but I would go home and pray that I would wake up and I would not be gay. Why would I do that? I wanted it to go away. But it wasn't going anywhere and it was never going anywhere. It's who I am. I didn't come out publicly until after Vancouver in 2010. And since then I have been the happiest I have ever been."

Though Vancouver might have been the push he needed, Sochi is a whole different ball game. Skjellerup has said that while he disagrees with the Olympics taking place in a country with a human rights record as poor as this, he also believes that there is power in uniting against that record.

"...Sochi gives us an opportunity to highlight Russia's anti-gay propaganda laws and say: this is wrong. Don't underestimate how powerful that could be."

Skjellerup, should he qualify, plans on selling rainbow pins to support his training and eventual trip to the games--stay tuned for the announcement!


Out Speed Skater Blake Skjellerup Launches Crowdfunding Campaign To Attend Winter Olympics In Sochi: VIDEO

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Previously, out speed skater Blake Skjellerup announced that he would wear a rainbow pin to the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, despite being threatened with penalties by the IOC and Russian government. Unfortunately for him, though, that means actually qualifying for the Olympics, which is much easier said than done for an unfortunately large number of Olympians. Those not fortunate enough to make their way with sponsorships must pay certain costs out of pocket, such as travel, lodging, food, and so on, not to mention the everyday costs of actual training. When asked by Out magazine what it takes financially to get to the Olympics, Skjellerup replied, "bankruptcy". 

Blake SkjellerupThat's why he has taken to Indiegogo to crowdfund his quest to qualify for Sochi. According to the campaign's official page:

"For Blake to qualify for the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, he will need to finish in the top 32 at the World Cups this autumn. These four key events are:

Sept. 26-29, Shanghai, China

Oct. 3-6, Seoul, South Korea

Nov. 7-10, Torino, Italy

Nov. 14-17, Kolomna, Russia"

At a minimum, this means coming up with a minimum of $15,000, which the campaign has luckily already raised. In actuality, however, costs for these events will likely be closer to $33,000, which the campaign has still yet to raise. If you're curious as to why costs for competing are that high, the page breaks down precisely where all that money goes:

  • "Travel for Blake, his coach and his physio therapist to all four World Cup events. Without our support, he will travel alone -- in places like China and Russia -- and will not have his coach or physio therapist at any of these crucial World Cup events. Having his support structure with him at these competitions is critical to his success."
  • "His physio therapist with him for the two weeks leading up to the final two World Cup events. Without our support, he has no physio therapist preparing him for the two races that specifically determine whether he qualifies for the Olympic Games."
  • "Accommodations closer to the training center in the two weeks before the qualifiers and before the Olympic Games. To cut costs, Blake lives over an hour away from the training center and must take the train every day. Our support will allow him to save over two hours of travel each day before the qualifiers and the Olympic Games and let him focus exclusively on his training."

The campaign has already received support from organizations such as You Can Play project, Outsports, It Gets Better Project, GLAAD, Athlete Ally, Pride House International, Here Media, and the NOH8 campaign. Perks for the Indiegogo campaign include personal thank yous, personal and/or signed photos, private Skype chats, and corporate sponsorship status. 

Watch Blake himself tell you his story and about his Olympic aspirations AFTER THE JUMP.

You can view the Indiegogo campaign and donate HERE

Continue reading "Out Speed Skater Blake Skjellerup Launches Crowdfunding Campaign To Attend Winter Olympics In Sochi: VIDEO" »


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