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Former Chicagoan Oostenbrug snags gold at Gay Games
by Ross Forman, Windy City Times

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Paul Oostenbrug was honored during the opening ceremony of Gay Games 10 in Paris with the highest honor from the Federation of Gay Games ( FGG ): the Tom Waddell Award.

Days later, he won another gold medal.

Oostenbrug, 68, who has lived in Albuquerque since 2010 after spending 13 years in Chicago, was a Team Chicago leader and former membership officer of FGG.

"This is an incredible honor," Oostenbrug said. "As I said to the FGG, I hope that in my small way I have invited people to participate and helped motivate them to change their worlds.

"The Tom Waddell Award is a wonderful acknowledgement of the time I spent doing sports and outreach, seven years as VP of membership for the FGG, and 12 years of involvement with the Gay Games Scholarship Program. During my tenure, the number of members of the FGG's General Assembly more than doubled."

Oostenbrug, who is an owner and independent agent for East Bridge Insurance, attended six Games prior to Paris, which took place Aug. 4-12, and he won five medals in the marathon.

His Paris gold medal came in a four-person relay race as part of Team SASS ( Seattle, Albuquerque, Seattle, and San Francisco ), though they were the only team in the 65-69 age category.

"My belief that the Gay Games do change the world started in Chicago, where a strong team brought 2,000 cheering Chicagoans into Soldier Field for the Gay Games VIII opening ceremony. I also became involved with the Gay Games Scholarship Program with those Games. I have led the program, with a strong team, for the past three Games," Oostenbrug said. "Among those 2,000 Chicagoans marching into Soldier Field were my partner Jere Kelly and my parents. I figured that they could never appreciate why I was devoting all of this effort to getting Chicagoans to the Games unless they were part of the opening ceremony. They got the message."

Oostenbrug led the Team Chicago contingent to the Games in Sydney, Chicago and Cologne, Germany.

The Gay Games, he said, "have allowed me to meet many wonderful people in Chicago and around the world, and they have helped me determine when it is time to step up to the plate, and when to step back so that others can lead."

Oostenbrug said the change he's seen in the Games over the years is how some events have grown and how some have shrunk.

There are, for instance, more runners than any other sport in Paris, he said. That is a big change.

"The Gay Games message is still incredibly relevant, but doesn't have as much impact in first world countries because it has been accomplished to some extent," Oostenbrug said. "The mission of the Federation of Gay Games is to promote equality through the organization of the premiere international LGBT and gay-friendly sports and cultural event known as the Gay Games. But, in the developing world, that mission is still vital. I think of the female to male field hockey player from rural Pakistan. That person needed to be at the Games and I still tear up when I think of my failure to get the German Embassy in Islamabad to give them a visa to come to Cologne in 2010.

"I've seen a lot of changes, but am not sure I can envision where the Games will be in 10 years. In five years they will be more inclusive and people will be connected to them in online and virtual ways more than has ever been the case up to now."

Around the track with … Paul Oostenbrug

Favorite pro sport: Basketball

Favorite pro team: Chicago Cubs

Favorite pro athlete: "Greg Louganis, who is a wonderful role model, record-setting Olympian, and Gay Games ambassador."

Favorite sports-related movie: Breaking Away

2022 Games in Hong Kong: "Yes, I certainly will [participate]."

Favorite Gay Games memory: "I remember the smile on the face of Eric Kugelman, owner of Leather 64Ten, when he was walking bare-assed down the street in Amsterdam in a jock, chaps and leather vest. That is how gay life should be lived!

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