Fast times at Ratner Center

after medley relays_thumb.jpg
milling about before medley relays_thumb.jpg

The Ratner pool echoed with cheering and clapping from the packed stands Sunday morning as swimmers stepped up to the blocks in the seventh Gay Games Sports and Cultural Festival. The games are open to anyone, so amateur swimmers raced alongside pros like Audy Oktavian, who placed second in the 2000 Olympic trials and swam the second lap of Sunday's 200-meter medley relay for the New England Masters swim club.

Ben Thompson, a third-year PhD/MD student in the U of C’s Medical Scientist Training Program, was one of several volunteers checking in competitors and spectators. In a Tribune interview, he captured the atmosphere: “It’s like a giant week-long sports party,” he said. “We’re trying to pack in as much as we can.”

Later the swimmers clustered around the results sheets taped up in Ratner. Oktavian’s relay team posted the best time among the men, with all four swimmers finishing in one minute 47.27 seconds. Oktavian also triumphed in his solo event, swimming the 50-meter breaststroke in 29.68 seconds. Although younger swimmers often had the best times, there were exceptions. Maria Anderson, 43, clinched the women’s 100-meter freestyle, finishing in one minute 50 seconds.

Swimming continues all week, with the longest event, the 1,500-meter freestyle, scheduled for Friday afternoon. The All Styles Martial Arts Tournament began Tuesday at Ratner and continues through Thursday. Wednesday’s martial-arts events include weapons forms, empty hand forms, musical forms, and sparring.

Jenny Fisher, ’07

Photo: The crowd circles the pool between races (top). Swimmers mill about before the medley relays (bottom).

July 19, 2006