Wednesday, July 29, 2009

World Outgames Report - my attempt at journalism!

Here's my attempt at being a journalist.. Let me know what you think!

....History was made in Copenhagen, Denmark this week as Jennifer McCreath became the first formally sanctioned and recognized Transsexual in world history to run a marathon and to compete in an international swim meet, and she brought home 2 Gold Medals for Canada in the process, as she and 12 other transsexual athletes (according to Outgames sports coordinator Tommy Kristoffersen) were among the 6500 athletes in attendance this week to participate in a variety of sporting disciplines at the 2nd World Outgames.

Jennifer ran the marathon on July 26/09 in a time of 4.19.53, and came back the very next day to participate in her first ever swim meet, where she completed the 1500M Freestyle swim on July 27/09 in a time of 28.31.

Both performances were good enough for Gold Medal wins by virtue of her being the only transsexual person in each of these two specific events. Technically, the Outgames had a category for both transsexual men and transsexual women.

What makes this story more amazing is that just 38 days prior to this marathon, Jennifer was released from hospital after a 4 day stay with what remains a mysterious yet-to-be-diagnosed lung ailment that was initially thought to be a blood clot. This ailment continues to restrict her breathing.

After running an slow and easy, yet incredible 5 marathons within a 30 day period this spring, McCreath initially focused her training to peak at the Outgames; however, the ailment forced her to cut back substantially. Just one week prior to the marathon, McCreath was still unsure as to whether or not she would even make the trip to Denmark, much less complete the run.

Ultimately, a time of 4.19.53 only ranks #14 among Jennifer's 18 career marathons, but given her state of health, she feels extremely satisfied with the fact that she was even able to complete the run. In fact, she came in with a solid game plan and executed it almost perfectly. Her plan was to run 6 minute km for the duration of the marathon. Her unofficial quarter split times were 63, 65, 64 and 67.53 minutes.

The swim turned out to be Jennifer's biggest highlight of the trip. Even on extremely sore and tired legs and a weak immune system, Jennifer shaved off more than a minute from her personal best training run. Jennifer got out to a quick start in the first lap, then slowed down to a consistent pace of 1.54 per 100M. her 400M split was 7.09 and her 800M split was 14.49.

After her swim, Jennifer was initially met with confusion as the time keeper was unaware of the transsexual category and initially awarded Jennifer a Silver Medal for apparently being the 2nd fastest female in her category, (for timing purposes at the World Outgames, Jennifer was initially assigned to the female category in both sports; and due to time constraints, rather than swim alone, Jennifer swam along side of females during one of their heat). However, the Outgames Swim program coordinator, Anders Tinning, confirmed on July 29, that a mistake had been made and that McCreath was in fact entitled to a Gold Medal for being the only transsexual to complete the swim, and that likewise, she would be stripped of the female category Silver that had been assigned in error.

In 2008, not satisfied with the fact that the Outgames had initially adopted the International Olympic Committee's policy for transsexual athletes, a policy that requires transsexuals to compete in their old sex until they meet a series of strict criteria for their new sex, Jennifer contacted the Outgames and submitted a policy amendment proposal that would allow for the creation of a 3rd sex category for transsexual athletes who only met 'some' of the criteria. Jennifer advocated that that a 3rd category would allow transsexuals to compete without the indignity of being labeled by a sex that was not consistent with their gender identity, yet at the same time, would not allow them to compete inappropriately against males or females for whom may have been at a competitive disadvantage. The Outgames graciously accepted McCreath's policy proposal and announced this decision as part of their January 2009 newsletter which has been posted here:

Overall, Jennifer had an enjoyable trip to Denmark. The trip started off with a flight to Halifax (which initially made an unplanned stop in Moncton, NB due to weather issues in Halifax), where she had a stop-over long enough to meet her father for dinner. Then it was onto an overnight flight to Keflavik, Iceland, where she would then connect to a flight into Copenhagen. Jennifer stayed at the still-being-built Cab Inn Metro, a building being dubbed as Copenhagen's largest hotel.

Jennifer regretfully elected to skip Saturday's Opening Ceremonies in favour of catching up on her sleep and to ensure that she was well-rested for Sunday's marathon. In addition to the sports, Jennifer was invited to a special evening reception where she and about 300 other delegates were welcomed to the games by the Mayor of Copenhagen, the Minister of Culture, and the World Outgames Committee. There, Jennifer mingled with a variety of athletes from all over the world, including several other Canadians.

Through the course of her time in Copenhagen, Jennifer enjoyed the outdoors, although the weather remained rainy and cloudy for the entire duration of her stay. Jennifer did not have much time for site seeing, but did manage to have one lovely stroll through a park, where she saw a family of Swans swimming in the river, including 5 very cute babies!

Jennifer also kept her tradition alive by finding a local pizza place to have her carb-loading supper the night before the marathon. The clerk at the pizza place was surprised at Jennifer's trans-appearance and initially thought she was the rock star getting ready to perform at a nearby outdoor concert!

Jennifer's story became wide spread throughout the Outgames, especially at the marathon, and she was often asked to pose for photographs. Jennifer was also apparently featured as part of a local TV evening news report on the marathon, as she was apparently depicted making her infamous funny face for a camera as she ran by the 15K mark. Unfortunately, Jennifer did not get to see the footage air.

Jennifer was widely popular among other athletes, dignitaries, volunteers, and fans at the Outgames and was often asked to pose for photographs. She graciously accepted and enjoyed every chance she got to meet with other people and share her story.

In addition to swimming, Jennifer had the exciting thrill of watching many other water sports, including other swim events, diving, and water polo.

Jennifer had a long 21 hour travel home as she had to connect once again through Iceland, and this time, Toronto, before getting home to Newfoundland.

Although happy with her performances, Jennifer was disappointed that the World Outgames did not make more of an effort to hype the news of the creation of the 3rd sex category. The transsexuals were essentially invisible, as they were not formally recognized or announced anywhere. Furthermore, they were often assigned to the male or female sex category temporarily due to the fact that chip timing companies were not able to formally recognize a 3rd category. Jennifer was extremely disappointed that the Marathon medal ceremony was postponed until Tuesday night, after she had already planned to depart for home. Jennifer was also extremely upset with the confusion at the pool around classification and medal awards.

Ultimately, McCreath did not go to Denmark to win medals or to compete with others, she was there to help raise education and awareness towards transsexualism and the many unfair issues transsexuals face in society. From this stand point, she left Denmark feeling as though lots was left on the table and that many potential opportunities were not realized.

Up next for Jennifer will be a return to the harsh realities of life as she struggles to find employment after losing her Government policy job with the Newfoundland provincial government in March. The good news is that Jennifer just found out that she will be interviewed in the days ahead for another Government Policy job, so she plans to spend a great deal of time studying for that.

In addition to looking for work, Jennifer plans to spend some time doing more volunteer work as a running coach in her community.

As far as athletics go, this week has given Jennifer renewed confidence that she is still able to participate in endurance sports despite continuing to suffer from shortness of breath due to her lung issue. Jennifer plans to continue with a strong training program throughout the rest of the summer to ensure that she arrives at the starting line of the Newfoundland Provincial Marathon at the end of September in the best shape possible. She also has not ruled out the possibility of an August marathon, possibly in Quebec, and she has also not ruled out the possibility of once again running 2 marathons in 2 days in 2 countries, as she is contemplating an Akron Ohio - Newfoundland double header!

News of Jennifer's success quickly caught on in her hometown of St. John's where local newspaper the scope wrote the following update on their website:

Jennifer's marathon finish was also announced at the conclusion of St John's Newfoundland PRIDE parade, which took place just minutes after McCreath crossed the finish line, where the news was apparently met with applause by hundreds of people.

More information about Jennifer can be found at her website

or right here on this blog

Formal World Outgames results for Jennifer and others can be found at these websites:


Anonymous said...

That is a terrific article, Jennifer! You must be so proud!

Jennifer McCreath said...

i am very pleased with the performances in the athletic events. which is ultimately what this was all about.. but there's still a very bad taste in my mouth over the lack of effort made to ensure that transsexuals felt welcome and equal at the games.. i will be pushing hard for recognition at future events..

Anonymous said...

it will come, especially with such positive and knowledgeable role models like yourself.