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Top 10 Chicago LGBT sports moments of 2014
by Ross Forman, Windy City Times
2014-12-31

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Here are the top 10 local LGBT sports achievements of 2014:

1. Sami Grisafe retired from the Chicago Force after an illustrious career as the team's quarterback, highlighted by the 2013 national championship.

2. The world learned of Eric Lueshen amid the Michael Sam coming-out news. Lueshen, who lives in Chicago, told of his time as an out kicker for the University of Nebraska football team, dating back to 2003. Lueshen helped lobby the Nebraska Legislature in the spring to pass a bill that would ban job discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. He was the youth ambassador for Heartland Youth Pride and the Grand Marshal for Heartland Pride, and was in Green Bay this fall when out former NFL player Esera Tuaolo sang the national anthem before a Packers game.

3. Veronica "Ro" Gazzillo ( nee Soper ), who was an All-Star player and then an assistant coach for the Chicago Force, died unexpectedly on Aug. 10, at her home in Evanston. She was 39. Gazzillo was a U.S. Army military police officer until she was given a Chapter 15 discharge for being lesbian. She was a union ironworker for 15 years, and was a 1993 graduate of Chicago's George Washington High School.

4. The Chicago Gay Hockey Association ( CGHA ) captured gold in ice hockey at Gay Games 9, the first Games gold in club history. The CGHA captured the title in the top-tiered Men's Advanced Division, which had only two teams. The Chicagoans defeated the LA Blades 5-2 in the championship game. The CGHA has teams that play in straight adult leagues at three area rinks. The CGHA Pride Classic tournament will be held June 25-27 in Chicago.

5. Billy Bean, the former major league baseball player, was inducted into the National Gay and Lesbian Sports Hall of Fame, among its class of 2014, which also included John Amaechi, Fallon Fox and Diana Nyad, among others. Bean attended the induction ceremony, held at the Center on Halsted in Chicago's Lake View neighborhood and, shortly thereafter, was appointed MLB's first "Ambassador for Inclusion."

6. Chicago Rowing Union ( CRU ) captured the gold medal in the Men's Four with Coxswain race, the club's first-ever Gay Games gold. CRU also won gold in the Women's Four race, in a combined boat with member of the Pioneer Valley Pride Crew from Massachusetts. There were 12 CRU members at the Games in Cleveland and all members of the gold medal-winning team are gay.

7. Jason Collins, who had a brief stint playing for the Brooklyn Nets before officially retiring in mid-November from the NBA after 13 seasons, appeared at two major speaking events in Chicago, including the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association ( NLGJA ) annual convention.

8. The Chicago Dragons competed for the prestigious Bingham Cup in Australia. The predominantly-gay rugby team also was a finalist to host the 2016 Bingham Cup, which ultimately was awarded to Nashville.

9. Jack Neilsen, the commissioner for the Chicago Metropolitan Sports Association ( CMSA ) open Sunday softball division, leads the 48-team, 750-player league, which is the largest LGBT softball league in the nation. Neilsen also was re-elected to the board for the North American Gay Amateur Athletic Alliance ( NAGAA ), which runs the annual Gay Softball World Series. He is the lone Chicago-resident on the NAGAAA board.

10. The Windy City Rollers, the brainchild of Elizabeth "Juanna Rumbel" Gomez and Kelly "Sister Sledgehammer" Simmons, celebrated 10 years. Its first season was in 2005 at the Congress Theatre. Windy City Rollers, with such home teams as the Double Crossers and Hell's Belles, now calls the UIC Pavilion its home arena. The next home team bouts are Jan. 10. The Windy City Rollers also are a prominent national force and feature the WCR All-Stars, the city's only nationally-ranked team.


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