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Flipping the bird

Badminton and tennis player Marie Houzeau hopes to strike it big at the Antwerp Outgames

Thousands of LGBT athletes from around the world will converge on Antwerp, Belgium, over the coming days for the 2013 Outgames, with its opening ceremonies Aug 3. Among them is a strong Canadian contingent.

Xtra chatted with some Canadian athletes to watch at this year’s games. In the last of four profiles, we check in with a racquet-sports pro and her track-and-field girlfriend.

The prodigal daughter:

For 42-year-old badminton and tennis player Marie Houzeau, this Outgames will have special significance. The Montreal resident hails from Belgium, and she can’t wait to serve her backhand in this “very friendly and festive environment.”

Houzeau had given up tennis for 20 years until her friends gave her a racket two years ago for her birthday, along with “a few lessons with my girlfriend.” The “crazy” idea to go from that to the games comes from her mixed-gender badminton partner. “For badminton, I teamed up with my friend Stephane [Hudon] because we wanted to play during the Montreal Outgames in 2006, and we’ve never stopped since.”

In tennis she’ll play with Robert Pilon — and she can count on her girlfriend, France Lord, to do the cheerleading. Lord will be in Antwerp for the five-kilometre run.

The pair met when Lord took up a volunteering position at GRIS-Montréal, where Houzeau works. The organization works with high schools, CEGEPs and youth centres in the Greater Montreal area on anti-homophobia education.

Houzeau says she loves playing in queer leagues for the joy of sport and because they’re free of “derogatory and stupid remarks.” They do have drawbacks, though: “The thing I find a bit challenging is that there are only a few girls in those leagues; for instance, in the tennis one, I’m often the only girl playing.”

Check out Xtra's profile of the Toronto Triggerfish — an LGBT water polo team — along with ballroom belles Lisa Pomeranz and Isabelle Léger and golden boy and Toronto track star Andre Mitchell.