Going for the gay gold

by Scott Eldredge
Sports writer

Keith Little and Sam Felker, veterans of the World Outgames, will be competing again this month in Copenhagen, Denmark.
Photos by Scott Eldredge

When most people plan their summer vacations, typical itineraries include trips to the beach, visiting theme parks, camping or relaxing at a mountain getaway. But for Sam Felker and Keith Little, summer vacation involves running, biking, and hurling heavy, sharp objects across a grassy field.

The men, partners of 13 years, are on their way to Copenhagen, Denmark, to participate in the 2009 World Outgames, with Felker competing in the triathlon and Little competing in the javelin and hammer throws.

The games were first held in 2006 in Montreal, Canada, the result of a split with the Federation of Gay Games. Billed as an international sport, cultural and human rights event highlighting and celebrating the global LGBT community, the 2006 World Outgames boasted 12,000 participants and was the largest international event to be held in Montreal since the 1976 summer Olympics. This year's games will run July 25 through August 2.

This will be the fifth time the men will compete international competition. The pair participated in the Montreal World Outgames as well as in the Amsterdam, Sydney, and Chicago Gay Games. As they head to Europe, the pair has to live up to their past accomplishments. After swimming for nearly two-thirds of a mile, biking for 12.4 miles, and running for 3.1 miles in the Montreal triathlon, Felker posted his personal best time. Little will step on to the field as the defending champion in both the javelin and hammer throws having earned gold medals in both the 2006 Chicago Gay Games and Montreal Outgames.

Felker, a 54 year old attorney with the firm Bass, Berry, and Sims PLC, has been doing triathlons for 15 years.

“I guess my mid-life crisis moment was to do a triathlon,” Felker joked. “Participating in the Gay Games and Outgames is a great way to motivate you to get out and stay in shape.”

Felker has always kept fit and been athletic, having played high school football and completed a mile swim as an eagle scout. However, Felker says doing a triathlon requires learning new skills.

“You have to learn to do a flip turn for pool swims, and you have to learn techniques for open water swims to deal with wind and waves,” Felker said. “You also have to learn about transitions from one event to the other. Your legs don’t understand why you go from biking to running.”

Keith Little will compete in the javelin throw during the World Outgames which begin July 25 in Denmark.

Little, an outgoing and talkative 44-year-old pharmaceutical representative, has also been a lifelong athlete playing quarterback for his high school football team, as well as playing high school and college baseball. He first considered throwing the javelin at the 1998 Amsterdam Gay Games.

“I pulled a hamstring while competing in sprinting and had to pull out,” Little said. “I was sitting in the stands after that watching the javelin events and I thought, ‘I could do that.'”

Little returned from Amsterdam and, in 2000, sought out the Vanderbilt track coach to help him learn to throw a javelin. That association got Little a special invitation to a Vanderbilt track meet where he qualified for a spot in the U.S. Track & Field Nationals at the master level competing against former Olympians and world champions where he placed fourth.

Little continued to participate in the javelin events then picked up the hammer throw and started training at Middle Tennessee State University about a year before the 2006 Chicago Gay Games. He said participating in the Gay Games and Outgames offers something he can’t find in the world of straight sports.

“Sportsmanship is by far the best [at the gay games] versus everyday sports," Little said. "There are lots of good-spirited people. I wasn’t used to that. It’s a great way to meet people, broaden your friendship base, and be in a warm, gay-friendly environment where you can compete and be who you are."

Felker and Little met thirteen years ago while training for a triathlon. Years later, they established residency in Massachusetts, and were married in Provincetown on August 7, 2007. Felker has three children from his previous marriage and the couple maintains memberships at the Belle Meade Country Club and Richland Country Club. While they both play golf, Felker says that his real motivation comes from participating in the gay games.

“It’s so affirming to see people of all ages, from different countries, all there to celebrate that you’re gay or lesbian and participate in sports,” Felker said. “It really helps to meet people from all over the world, to hear their experiences, how they live. It’s uplifting for me.”

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