thumbnailIt may seem a bit too early to think about a swimming event, especially when it’s being held in Edmonton, Canada while much of the U.S. is covered in snow and ice. But registration is now open for the 2016 IGLA (International Gay & Lesbian Aquatics) Championships being held from August 8-14, and they already have athletes from North America, Europe and Australia signed up.

This international aquatic gathering that takes place in years between the Gay Games, has been held in Stockholm, Seattle, Reykjavik, Honolulu, Copenhagen, Washington, D.C. and Paris. At the 2014 Gay Games held in Cleveland, the Making Waves Aquatics Club of Edmonton won the bid to host this year’s championships, making this the first time since 2001 (Toronto) the championships have been held in Canada.

With over 1,000 participants and an additional several hundred family, fans and officials expected, the sanctioned masters competition will bring Alberta the largest gay sporting event in the province’s history. The Making Waves Aquatics Club team is busy preparing to host athletes from around the world to compete in swimming, diving, water polo, synchronized swimming (aka synchro), open water swimming, and the famous Pink Flamingo™.

“My first IGLA swimming championships were in Toronto in 2001 followed by the Sydney Gay Games in 2002. I had such great experiences and met so many friends that it inspired me to share that experience with others. The parties were fun too!!” said Mike Stansberry, IGLA 2016 co-chair.

When asked about the Pink Flamingo, he said “The best way to describe it is a drag aqua-follies synchro show in water … done in the dive tank. It can be a mix of swimming, choreography on the deck, diving off the platform, costumes.” Sadly, he said there are no feathers or glitter allowed, but only “because they clog the pool filters.”

While IGLA is an international organization that promotes aquatic sports for gay men and women, it’s also open to friends of the LGBT community. Making Waves Aquatics Club is Edmonton’s inclusive masters swim club and water polo team, and since 1999 they’ve fostered participation in aquatic sports in a gay-positive environment that’s supportive of all athletes. And if you’re a serious competitive swimmer, an IGLA competition is a safe bet since part of its mission is to “ensure maintenance of the highest standards for aquatic competitions and international standards for all Gay Games and IGLA Championships.”

“We’re thrilled with the response we’re getting from the international community, particularly the

Americans with their strong dollar in relation to the Canadian Loonie.” said Justin Shields, IGLA 2016 co-chair. With 63 IGLA member teams that represent approximately 2,700 athletes from 17 countries, a number of them are sending multiple teams. Shields said “I’ve already heard that the Sydney Stingers and the Toronto Triggerfish water polo teams were planning to send two teams each to the tournament; in fact Edmonton started its own LGBT water polo team because of local interest in hosting!”

If you’re already involved in any area of competitive swimming or thinking about it, join your local IGLA member team and sign up now. Then you can allow thoughts of pink flamingos and August in Edmonton, a beautiful city in the summer near the Canadian Rockies, to warm and thaw you over the rest of this crazy winter.

To register or for more information on the 2016 IGLA Championships, go to


Photo courtesy of Jack Mackenroth

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