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    Gay Games IX Tom Waddell Award Winners

    By Doug Litwin

    The international Federation of Gay Games manages the quadrennial Gay Games from right here in San Francisco. Created in 1990 at Gay Games III, the organization began giving the Tom Waddell Award as its highest honor. Every four years, the award recognizes one man and one woman for their outstanding contributions to the international Gay Games movement and the federation’s mission of equality through sport and culture.

    Gene Dermody

    On August 9 at the Opening Ceremony of Gay Games IX in Cleveland’s Quicken Loans Arena, the male recipient of the Tom Waddell Award will be San Francisco’s own Gene Dermody, another native of New Jersey. Gene is a true living legend within the Gay Games, and his accomplishments are too many to list in a single article.

    Gay Games I changed Gene’s life in 1982, and he has spent every day since then paying forward the gift of Dr. Tom Waddell. Gene has served the Federation of Gay Games in a variety of capacities. He has been a key leader in many organizations, including the Golden Gate Wrestling Club, Wrestlers WithOut Borders, and Team San Francisco. He has given selflessly of his time, energy and expertise, often at a personal and financial cost, yet always with the goal of sharing the precious tool for personal discovery and empowerment that are the Gay Games. About his experience at Gay Games I in 1982, Gene said, “I had finally come ‘home’ after a very long exile.”

    Elvina Yuvakaeva
    Elvina Yuvakaeva

    The female winner of the 2014 Tom Waddell Award is Elvina Yuvakaeva, a brave young Russian who only discovered LGBT sport in 2011. Seeing the power of sport to change lives, she chaired the Russian Open Games, the country’s first international LGBT multisport tournament. Held in Moscow between the Sochi Olympics and Paralympics, the Games showed international solidarity with Russian LGBTs and used sport to fight rising homophobic repression.

    Facing constant attacks from government authorities, including venue cancellations, bomb scares, and even a smoke bomb attack, Yuvakaeva and her team bravely responded with calm energy, dignity, and restraint, and saw the Open Games through to the end. She is a hometown hero in Moscow, and someday deserves to be honored in San Francisco just as Dr. Tom Waddell and Gene Dermody have been.