2 min

A brief note

Water polo folk are 'a different breed'

DIVE IN. Toronto swimmers are more laid back. Credit: Tony Fong

When it comes to an international swim meet, the computers are as important as the water.

“Most people don’t understand that there aren’t semi-finals and finals,” says Joe Wearing, the co-chair of last weekend’s annual International Gay And Lesbian Aquatics championship held in Toronto.

“Each heat is a final. So you determine who won by the times each person got.” And it’s all electronic – based on which swimmer hit the little yellow pad first at the end of the pool.

“In order to back up the electronic timing, you have two, maybe three people with stopwatches.”

Then there are complex rules over which time gets counted in the case of a glitch.

And with 900 athletes from around the world registering for the Jul 5 to 8 meet, with most competing in more than one event, the heats are endless. Wearing estimates 55 races for the 50m freestyle, a particularly popular event.

Competition is split by sex, and focussed in five-year age groups. Toronto had about 40 delegates, most from the organizing Downtown Swim Club.

And how did Toronto fare? “I don’t know and we don’t care,” says Wearing. “We wanted to put on a good meet. It was quite a challenge, we’re the smallest club [at 80 members] to ever put on an IGLA.

“Some of the teams are super competitive, Toronto tends to be a little more laid back.”

Then there’s the water polo, where the winners take all. “What goes on underneath the surface of the water is often much more critical,” says Wearing (who’s a swimmer, a breed Wearing calls “meek”). “They hope the referee is not going to see.”

Wearing laughs that waterpolo players are “a different breed.” Toronto had a couple of waterpolo delegates, who were absorbed into other teams for the weekend since Hogtown doesn’t have its own team.

Divers need the most concentration, and they have the best legs. “I tell you, there were sights to be seen!” enthuses Wearing. He got in some heats, even though most of his time was spent watering brush fires.

The Philadelphia Fins won the prestigious (ahem) Pink Flamingo ballet skit award. The District Of Columbia Aquatic Club got first place in the swimming large team category (more than 30 members). The small team trophy went to a Minnesota team, and the medium team was Nadadores De South Florida.

The top water polo team was West Hollywood.

Perhaps the most infamous participant was Rob Price, who bicycled in to Toronto from Denver. (He flew back – he says he didn’t have time to ride both ways.)

Records were broken. There were 114 IGLA records either broken or newly established. There was also a national record set, and Wearing says they’re looking into a possible world record – but everything has to be double-checked before details are released.