Gay Games VIII: Cologne recap

My sixth Gay Games competition has come to a close and as I leave Cologne Germany for Amsterdam I have a chance to reflect on the amazing experience of the last week.  I have been training for this competition for 8 months, lifting weights and swimming at least 2 hours daily. I had a few meets leading up to the games in which I did some of my best times ever so I was really prepared and excited for the competition. The experience of the Gay Games did not disappoint.

The journey to Cologne from New York started off with a few hiccups. My eight-hour flight to Munich and then Cologne turned into a 14-hour hot mess when my first flight was delayed and I missed my connection. Good times. Thank you for flying Lufthansa. I finally got to my hotel at 5 pm local time and flew to registration with enough time to make it to the opening ceremonies. It’s always fabulous to see all the international teams in their different uniforms and costumes. The energy and anticipation is infectious and walking into the stadium for the parade of athletes was really moving. It reaffirmed why I have been sacrificing all those hours swimming up and down the same pool day after day after day.

View of the main stage at opening ceremonies

Since this was my sixth Gay Games I have been to many opening ceremonies and I wont be too harsh on Cologne because they are one of the smaller host cities, but the ceremony was a bit boring in my opinion. It started with a series of really long speeches by local government officials and various and sundry German “celebs” that I didn’t recognize. It went on WAY too long before the talent portion of the program. The highlight was definitely Taylor Dayne singing her hit “Tell It To My Heart” and the Gay Games anthem “Facing a Miracle” which is actually kind of amazing.  Then Agnes—who was the winner of X Factor Sweden—performed her hit “Release Me”. It’s a fab song and her whole album is fierce and I don’t quite understand why she isn’t a massive star in the US. Whatever. Needless to say at that point I had been awake for over a day and I was delirious and basically ran from the stadium to my bed where I lapsed into a coma.

4x50 meter medley relay Bruce Hayes, Josh Judge, me and Rob Hermanet

The swimming competition was 6 days and started at 8 am the next morning. The venue was amazing. It was the first time I had ever seen a steel bottom pool which used sunlight and reflection to heat the water. It was stunning. I think there were about 750-1000 swimmers competing and the competition is tough and the swimmers mean business. Team New York Aquatics brought about 20 swimmers over. I had events during four of the next six days. Each swimmer was allowed to swim 5 individual events and 3 relays. At the end of the meet I came home with 1 gold medal, 5 silver medals and one bronze medal. I was more than pleased with that although the best day was my last day which is a pretty good sign that I didn’t rest enough before hand or jet lag had taken it’s toll. In any case I didn’t do any personal best times but I had some great races. I guess it was the year of the silver medal for me. That’s OK. Silver goes better with my skin tone anyway.

On my day off my BFF, Bruce Hayes (1984 Olympic gold medalist), and I went to watch the figure skating competition. It’s half camp half skill but generally very entertaining. I have to give props to the queens who just let their nelly out full throttle. It was jazz hands central. In general the weather in Cologne is unpredictable and kind of gloomy. We came from New York where it was 1000 degrees so we mainly packed swim wear and daisy dukes. After a couple of hours in the skating arena we were human popsicles., and actually had to duck into the souvenir store to buy fuzzy slippers. Fashion first! Unfortunately swimming is the longest and largest of the 35 sports in the Games so I didn’t have time to go watch more sporting events.

During my only other free day I went shopping and took advantage of the less stringent pharmaceutical regulations in Europe to stock up on pain killers and skin potions. All very Valley of the Dolls. I also found a wacky store where I bought a flawless pair of white Hello Kitty head phones. I will be giving you butch realness at the gym when I get back to New York.

I have met some really amazing athletes form all around the world. Cologne is a very charming city and the people were warm and hospitable. From what I experienced, Cologne did a great job of hosting the Gay Games. Some of them still have that whole severe German thing going on but it didn’t faze me much. After swimming some great races and laughing my ass off on many occasions I’m off to Amsterdam to celebrate after months of hard work. See you at Gay Games 2014 in Cleveland!!

10 thoughts on “Gay Games VIII: Cologne recap

  1. Pingback: Jack Mackenroth is a Gay Champion

  2. Jack just a quick note to say I am really proud of your strength and determination at the Gay games there in Germany!!!I hope you have alot of fun in Amsterdam too. All the best, John Stark

  3. Cologne native here! Damn, i’d have stalked u if i knew u were participating :D Only season of project runway i followed :) greetings from cologne, hope u had a great time in my beloved city & congrats on your success!!

  4. Jack- What a phenomenal accomplishment! I followed you on PR, so I am thrilled to “see” you again, and doing so well. You are quite a fierce writer, too. A charming and engaging essay…thank you!! Ed C. in Denver, Colorado.

  5. Poz Atheletes ROCK!!!

    Jack you are AMAZING!!! Congratulations on a job VERY well done, sir! Good on ya!!!

    How about Poz Magazine doing an article on the Gay Gaymes just on Poz Atheletes?!! Yes, I’m biased. I competed along with a LOT of other HIV+ atheletes at the Sydney and Chicago Gay Gaymes! Now I’m really sorry I was not also in Koln!

    Congratulations to Jack and all the other HIV+ Heroes!!!


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