I decided before writing this page, to gather up my two medals and wear them as I type this - how cute! On the medals are the very words in the heading - how inspiring!
In March 2008, I decided to break my twelve year habit as couch potato and participate at the 1st Asia Pacific Outgames, which took place in Melbourne, Australia. Not long before that, it was by chance that one of the organisers of the Outgames was invited to our kapa haka practice in Wellington, to talk to us about the Outgames and to encourage us to perform on the opening night. Prior to this guest speaker - I didn't have an inch of interest about the Outgames and had never thought about it at all.
By the time he had finished his 15 minute spiel to us, I was anxiously looking at my partner, wide-eyed and excited about playing a sport that I used to enjoy some 22 years ago. As soon as he was finished and we were able to mingle, I immediately approached my wife and asked her if I could go to the games and play tennis. Just as quick was her positive reply and a smile that spoke volumes about my sudden interest in sport not to mention the possibility of our kapa haka group performing at opening night. Oh! and there was the conference too - I hadn't considered that a highlight but of course it was yet another reason to go.
So my build-up to playing tennis was hmmm, shall we say 'not much at all' but my wife did buy me a cool tennis racquet and I managed to have some hit arounds with a social group that met at the Renouf tennis centre in Wellington on Sunday nights. So the kapa haka group was practising to do a couple of items on stage at the opening night and I was keen and very excited about it all.
My application form had to be in and I was having a really hard time filling this out for my tennis.
There was a lot of questions to answer about my sexuality and gender and after a few attempts and trying to understand what the questions mean't - I managed to get my application in just on time. The other major decision was which grade to put myself in to. However, considering I didn't belong to a tennis club, had no training and pretty much inexperienced and unfit - I went in to the C grade. I also did not have a tennis doubles partner so had to put myself into a hat draw for a partner. Abit scarey but I really wanted to 'have a go'. It was official - I was going to the Outgames, and I was attending the conference. It was quite pricey when I thought about it especially finding myself suitable accommodation and travel arrangements, so that just amped up my determination to make the most of the tennis, attend all of the conference and enjoy the kapa haka performance....in other words - give it heaps!
I got to Melbourne along with some of the locals and members of the kapa haka group who were travelling around the same time as me. Arrival and settling in was great and I was happy and proud to be taking part in this inaugural event. The venues were awesome and the people were stunning - I fitted in really well while still keeping to myself in preparation for why I was 'really' there - to play my most favourite game - tennis.
On my first day, I got up really early, had my gears already sorted out for the day, brought me heaps of water and snacks to take with me and probably 2 hours earlier than everyone else, proceeding to make my way to the Rod Laver Stadium. Oh Boy! I was looking forward to getting to the tennis arena mainly because the Australian Open had just finished the day before (Friday) and it was Saturday morning. When I got there it was messy and looked like people had yet to tidy it up with boundary fences still erected and rubbish still to be cleared away. I could feel the energy of this place over the last week. Wow! I was actually here. For years I'd watch the tennis from this venue and totally soak up the sport through satellite TV. Now I was literally there! Cool!
What I hadn't prepared myself for was the crowds. I hate crowds at the best of times and while I had managed to survive the opening night festivities with thousands of people around - I was not prepared for the tanned and tight physiques that surrounded me. I literally had a moment when I thought about just telling the organisers I didn't want to play as I was the fattest and most unfit looking competitor registered for this tournament. Reality bit me on the arse as I looked around me and had already decided I was not even gonna survive one match.
Then my first match was signalled and with no place to hide and no partner to have a trantrum about it all - I bit my lip, and waddled my fat butt on to the court. I don't know where the time went but before I knew it - I had clocked up my first match in favour of moir! And I was stoked! Stoked that I lasted the game, I didn't have an asthma attack or relinquish because I was knackered. Stoked that I won the match and that my opposition really tried to beat me so it wasn't a 'fixed' game. Stoked that I managed to walk off the court like a pro! Oh my - I have created a monster!! I was pumped. And for these couple of days - it was pure allegiance to the sport in as best a fashion I could make it - with my sports bag and one racquet, I was having 'the time of my life'.
Unbeknown to me, however I was starting to feel abit tired and sore by now - the finals matches were announced. I wasn't quite sure how tournaments were rostered and so I studied the match charts and, (with pride of course), watch as my name was added on to the next level as it headed in to the quarter and semi finals.
The short end of it all was as I mentioned in my first sentence. Yes folks - I managed to bring home a bronze medal for the singles, and a silver medal for the doubles. And what I totally enjoyed was that the other guys from the New Zealand team came to watch the presentation and really made me feel special at that moment. I will never forget that. And my doubles partner decided to wear a NZ shirt (like mine and black in colour) for the presentation of the doubles medals. What a nice touch.
I wrote this wee story to share with you that you don't have to be the best to take part in the Outgames. Participating is 80% of the success, winning is the icing on the cake. What great memories. Oh well - I'd better go put my medals back now. Reflection time is over and now I guess it is time to focus on 2011! See you there!