Gay Games 9 takes place in Cleveland & Akron, Ohio, Aug. 9-16. You can register here – be part of the fun with Joshua and other LGBT athletes!
Joshua Koch will be competing as a diver in this year's Gay Games in Cleveland. This is his first Gay Games and he will chronicle his journey.

The next step in my journey towards the Gay Games in Cleveland was to practice, practice, practice.

With practice comes experience, and every time I dive, my mind and body experience a plethora of sensations. The mind focuses intensely in a span of a few seconds mid-air, then has to tell the body to do as many flips and twists as possible within this finite amount of time.

For me, diving has brought science fiction to life, almost like making my body travel in hyperspeed. With repetition, this symbiosis of body and mind becomes easier for me, and the product results in a beautiful dive that showcases the years of time practicing a certain dive for a spectacular six-second performance. It is similar to a pianist performing his favorite song dedicated to his very own repertoire.

As any athlete knows, regardless of practice, when competition time comes so do all of the curve balls associated with it. Just as a pianist showcases the practice of his songs with a recital, a diver showcases the practices of his dives with a meet. In both instances, a screaming person, a flashing camera or inclement weather can be essentially the straw that broke the camels back. One thing can completely affect the years of practice put into the synchronization of body and mind, and this is why I found it important for me to compete within a diving meet atmosphere to prepare me even further than the dives themselves.

The meet I chose happened to be U.S. Masters Nationals in San Antonio,Texas, where I competed with 92 other divers. I figured if I were to mentally prepare myself for my first international competition it would have to be a similar experience. Being that I am not in college currently, to dive on a national level with some of the best divers from around the U.S. is hard work. I have to compete affiliated with a club diving team, pay dues to USA Diving, pay meet registration costs, and finally figure out expenses for travel accommodations to wherever the meet is held. For me getting to the Gay Games has proven tough and has drained me financially, but I somehow managed to figure it all out. Getting to San Antonio was a different story.

After my fund-raiser, I was only prepared for traveling to Cleveland. I really wanted to go to San Antonio, but it did not look like it would be in the cards for me. Literally eight hours before the registration deadline, my good friend Sam Bender said he would pay for me to come along. Since he was already driving and already had a hotel, it was not much of a burden for him to take me and cover my meet registration. I am so thankful how everything seemed to work out from that point forward.

We headed out for a 16-hour drive on May 1 and made it to San Antonio in the afternoon the next day. When competition day came, it seemed all was well until warmups began. Diving outdoors in windy conditions with the sun glaring in your eyes was a definite game changer. I kept smacking the water, losing form, and messing up some of my best dives. A short 25 minutes after warming up, the meet commenced and ended like that. Those tiny physical elements that battered me in warmups definitely took a tool on me in the meet.

When all was said and done though, I finished in second place in my age group, only 30 points behind my friend Sam Bender. Even though I did not take home a gold, I am proud of myself for my achievement of second place on the 3-meter springboard at a national level. Most importantly, I am very thankful for this experience because it allowed me to work out all of the kinks when it comes to diving, and the bigger aspect of competing. Now I am definitely more prepared and focused with my sites set on gold.

Joshua and his silver medal.

Joshua Koch lives in Denver and can be reached via email at [email protected].

Gay Games 9 takes place in Cleveland & Akron, Ohio, Aug. 9-16. You can register here – be part of the fun with Joshua and other LGBT athletes!


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