Featured in the July/ August 2018 Issue of Compete Magazine

Wow, this summer has flown by fast. In fact, the last four years have flown by fast. It feels like just last year that I flew home from the Gay Games in Cleveland. And yet here I am getting ready to go to Paris!

The Paris 2018 Gay Games will be my third Gay Games. In addition to the 2014 games in Cleveland, I also took part in the 2010 Games in Cologne, Germany. Going to the 2010 Games was my first real foray in experiencing the international world of LGBTQ+ Sports … AND doing it as a baby-faced 21-year-old. It was my first big solo trip overseas as an adult.

While I have traveled quite a lot since then to some truly amazing places, that first trip to Cologne will always be in my heart as one of the best I’ve ever taken. The experience of participating in the Games itself really made the trip special for me – from marching in the opening ceremonies and taking part of the festivities to swimming and competing. And then meeting all sorts of new friends from around the world, many of whom I still keep in touch with, to stepping outside my comfort zone and discovering what the world can truly offer.

Eight years later I have definitely learned a lot and have grown up quite a bit. But as I make the trip to Paris I am going with the same excitement and passion that I had prior to my other two Games. However, this year will be a new experience for me as well since I won’t just be going to compete as a swimmer. I will also be taking the time to report for Compete Magazine on what I learn about the people at the event, on how Paris is welcoming us to these Games and what the Gay Games movement truly means for the LGBTQ+ sports community in attendance.

This Gay Games will definitely be an important run for me after my bad experiences at another poorly organized large LGBTQ+ sporting event in the recent past. I am most definitely ready for one that truly understands what it means to put on a well-organized, high quality event. My observations of Paris so far have been … optimistic. So I am very much looking forward to seeing what Paris has to offer.

In addition to sharing my experiences along with stories and adventures from other athletes, hopefully I’ll also be getting a sneak peek at the preparations for the 2022 Gay Games in Hong Kong and learning more about what the Gay Games movement has planned for the future.

By Dirk Smith