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A Swimmer's Exceptional Story

(This story was published in 2007).

By: Patricia Nell Warren

Olympic gold medalist Mark Tewksbury pulled off a double-header this year. He not only played a major role in bringing about the Montreal OutGames, but he also published his autobiography. This spring "Inside Out" came out in hardcover, and Mark has been book-touring intensively.

Over the last few years, while writing my Outsports series on gay sports pioneers, I've read a whole heap of GLBT sports autobiographies and biographies. Some are brilliant, and searingly honest. Some are so-so or predictable. Mark tells the story of how a hard-boiled Canadian literary agent asked him point-blank, "Everybody thinks they have a book in them. What makes your story unique and different?"

One unique thing about Mark's story is that it avoids the familiar movie-drama wind-up to a last chapter about Olympic victory. By Chapter 5, Mark already has his first gold medal (at Barcelona, in 1992, in the 100-meter backstroke). The rest of the book is just as fascinating -- especially his growing conviction that amateur sport was suffering from corruption and greed, Unlike many people today, who are sunk in apathy and don't do anything about the social problems they complain about so bitterly, Mark decided to take action. In 1999 he was one of a group of distinguished athletes from around the world who held their own summit in New York City and launched a movement to reform the Olympic movement. "We looked at the problems of doping," he said, "of ethics, of the toll of mismanagement on athletes."

The story of how Tewksbury and his group wrestled with Olympic corruption, and whether they succeeded, and how they were resisted by entrenched powers in international sports, makes for gripping reading. Later, the story moves on to Mark's involvement with the Federation of Gay Games. The reader gets Mark's behind-the-scenes take on what happened with the Montreal Gay Games, and why, and how it transformed into the Montreal Outgames.

From world-class swimmer to co-president of the 1st World OutGames, this insider story of the politics behind the sports, and the idealism that still drives many athletes, makes "Inside Out" an exceptional read.