Sonja S. Furiya wanted to be a trapeze artist and actually spent years in circus school. But when she heads to Copenhagen this summer for the 2009 World Outgames, she’s keeping her feet on the ground. And she’ll be a lot more graceful, too. Furiya, 49, from Alton, Ill., will participate in Ballroom & Latin Dance with her dance/life partner Ann R. Taylor.
“My goals for the Outgames are to have as much fun as I possibly can, and to dance as beautifully as I can,” said Furiya, who attended High School of Music & Art in New York City and then Washington University. She is now the Development Services Coordinator for the Municipal Theatre Association of St. Louis.
“Our sport, same-sex ballroom dancing, is the only sport that involves two participants in an intimate position and it is the only sport in which being gay has had a direct impact on the actual sport. In same-sex ballroom dancing, the leader and follower can exchange roles, from one dance to the next or even in the middle of a dance. Being gay has actually changed the sport as performed by the straight world; straight dancers never change roles.
“My wife and I also are in the small percentage of ballroom competitors who are partners in life and partners in our sport. In ballroom dancing we have found ways of communicating and working together on the dance floor which spill over into our every day married life. Our sport enables us to have a closer personal life together.”
Furiya competed in the 2006 Outgames in Montreal, claiming the gold medal in Ballroom (Senior Division, Level C) and a silver medal in Latin (Senior Division Level C). Plus, they are the 2007 U.S. Women’s Same-sex Latin Champions.
“Most ballroom dancers specialize in either the Standard Ballroom style or the Latin style. Each style involves three to five dances, depending upon which level you are placed in,” Furiya said. “Learning and practicing the three to five dances of one style takes a lot of time. A few couples compete in both Standard Ballroom and Latin. This involves learning and practicing six to 10 dances. It is much harder to be good at both the Ballroom and Latin styles and to keep all 10 of the dances at competition levels.
“This requires a great deal of time, practice and desire to dance well. Ann and I dance and compete in all 10 dances. While we may not get into the top level in Copenhagen and get to dance all 10, we do have to continue practicing all 10 of them as we do compete in 10-Dance competitions here in the U.S.”
GETTING TO KNOW … Sonja S. Furiya
FAVORITE PROFESSIONAL SPORTS TEAM(S): St. Louis Cardinals
FAVORITE PRO ATHLETE(S): Steffi Graf, Yadier Molina, Albert Pujols
HOBBIES: Knitting, jewelry-making, costume-making.
WHY ARE YOU COMPETING IN THE OUTGAMES: “Excitement, camaraderie, having a goal to aim for, celebration, participating in a week-long Pride that is city-wide, meeting people and seeing the world, oh … and for the dancing.”
OVERCOME ANY MAJOR OBSTACLES: “I have occasional bouts of extreme asthma. In 2008, I was unable to dance for three months due to asthma. But dancing also helps to increase my lung capacity, so it helps me combat my asthma.”
Luis Eduardo Bahamon has been a standout swimmer and diver in several countries. Just consider:
* He won his first bronze medal in high school on the 3-meter springboard in 1977, an event held in Cali, Colombia.
* At the 2004 IGLA Championship in Fort Lauderdale, he came in second-place in the 3-meter springboard.
* At the 2008 IGLA event in Washington D.C., he won two medals in 1-meter and 3-meter springboard.
* At a 2008 National Master-level swim event in Austin, Texas, he was in the 1,600-meter event, finishing 14th in his age-group.
Now Bahamon, who attended Rutgers University in New Jersey, is shooting for gold in Denmark, too. Bahamon, 47, who is gay (and single) and a clinical scientist at Kaiser Permanente, will participate in the 2009 World Outgames, which kick off July 25 in Copenhagen.
“I am competing in the Outgames because I feel it’s important as a gay male to support this kind of event and my fellow gay athletes,” Bahamon said. “My goal for the Outgames is to represent my swim team, West Hollywood Aquatics, well.”
Bahamon competed in the 2002 Gay Games in Australia and the 2006 version in Chicago. He also has participated in five IGLA championships.
“I think, due to my training and perseverance, the 2009 World Outgames will be a success for me,” he said.
GETTING TO KNOW ... Luis Eduardo Bahamon
FAVORITE PROFESSIONAL SPORTS TEAMS(S): Los Angles Lakers
FAVORITE PRO ATHLETE: Mark Sanchez, former USC football player.
HOBBIES: Collect coins and stamps.
SUPERSTITIONS: Friday the 13th.
LITLE KNOW FACT: “I am a good friend and I always have a smile on my face.”
DEDICATING THE OUTGAMES TO: “My Mother.”