Different games, familiar hurdles

Organizers of this summer’s two competitions for gay athletes say they’ve learned their lessons so the events will be profitable now and viable for the future

BY Fred Kuhr

February 28 2006 12:00 AM ET

Hector L. Torres,
who will be competing in the triathlon at Chicago’s
Gay Games this summer, has jumped over his share of
hurdles to get to where he is today. He was a severely
overweight teenager with a high-pitched voice who had
trouble fitting in after his family moved from his native
New Jersey to Puerto Rico. His traditional Latino family had
a difficult time accepting his sexual
orientation—his father even punched him once.
His mother survived a near-fatal car accident and has since
required her son’s assistive care.

Later, he himself
was involved in a car accident that left him
unconscious for three days. His father, blaming a
“midlife crisis,” walked out on the
family. His first long-term boyfriend was bulimic and
bipolar, and their breakup left Torres emotionally spent.

Today, life is
very different for the 28-year-old living in Orlando, Fla.
A few years back, Torres shed 100 pounds and is now a
200-pound, 6-foot-1 muscular powerhouse. He began
running and working out at a local gym and now teaches
Pilates, muscle-toning, and cycling classes in addition to
working as a promotions director at WNUE FM,
Orlando’s top-rated Hispanic radio station.
He’s also made peace with his family and himself.

Each step of the
way, Torres says, he was inspired by his mother’s
recovery process. “After bathing her one day I
thought to myself, I don’t know how she does
it,
” Torres says. “But it also made me
think about myself. Taking care of my mother made me
stronger. I saw all that my mom had to overcome, and I
thought, If she can do this, I can do this
too.

Since that
realization, Torres has set goals and constantly challenged
himself to do better. That drive is what is taking him to
the Windy City in July.

Torres’s
story of inspiration and personal bests resonates with many
of the thousands of athletes who will participate in
Chicago’s Gay Games, July 15–22, and
Montreal’s Outgames, July 29–August 5.

Both of these
events have had to overcome their own financial,
organizational, and public-relations battles, resulting in
two separate yet similar entities and events. And like
Torres, organizers of both the Gay Games and the
Outgames are setting goals and challenging themselves,
trying to avoid the flood of red ink that’s colored
every Gay Games since 1994.

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