The Rideau Speed-eaus are once again looking to lap up the competition.
Later this month, the primarily queer swim team will hold its 14th annual swim competition, Swimmers In Heats 2005, at the University Of Ottawa. Over the past several years, the meet has grown to become one of Canada’s largest sanctioned gay swim meets.
This year’s competition – co-hosted by the Rideau Speedeaus and Ottawa’s TechnoSport Masters Swim Club – will be held on Sat, Feb 19 at the U Of O’s Montpetit Hall (125 University). The first event is scheduled to begin at 9:15am.
The swim club, which is open to swimmers of all levels, is a member of both the International Gay And Lesbian Aquatics and Masters Swim Ontario.
“We are a gay and lesbian team, but this is not an exclusive gay and lesbian event,” says Ian Matthews, swim meet coordinator. “We get teams from Montreal, Toronto, Boston, Detroit, and those are primarily gay and lesbian teams. But we are co-hosting this event with TechnoSport – which is a straight Ottawa team – so it is open to gays, lesbians and straights, but it’s all about swimming and having fun with it.”
Last year, the competition drew 120 swimmers. This year, Matthews says organizers are hoping to attract close to 150.
“We were unable to get the pool for the Presidents’ Day Weekend last year, which is an American holiday, and so we didn’t get very many American attendees,” explains Matthews. “But we are hopeful that [this year], having it on the Presidents’ Day Weekend, we will.”
As well, the team is hosting a Waterlude Dance Party at Barrymore’s on Sat, Feb 19 at 9pm, with free admission for volunteers and sponsors.
Although the Speedeaus may have difficulty matching up against the larger and more seasoned swim teams from Toronto or Montreal, Matthews says the group has “a lot of new swimmers, who are really fast and that’s great.”
The experienced swimmer is quick to add, however, that the event is about more than just winning.
“In swimming, you might do three or four events, but in between, you are spending time with your teammates, you are encouraging your teammates while they are swimming, you are cheering them on, and it is wonderful as a swimmer, when you can hear your teammates cheering you on – it just drives you,” he says. “Your best might be slow for other people, but it is good for you.”
A member of the Rideau Speedeaus for the past three years, Matthews says he joined the group after relocating to Ottawa from Vancouver, in hopes of connecting with the city’s queer community.
“It was a great way to meet nice people, genuine people, and my core group of friends are a result of the swim team,” says Matthews.
Matthews adds that the group recently took a road trip to a meet in Boston, and we carpooled, and we just had a blast.
“I hesitate to say it is not about serious competition, it is really about having fun with your teammates,” he says of the club. “It’s not just about swimming.”