Chris Morgan is a world champion powerlifter and a Gay Games ambassador. We spoke with him about his experiences of the Games, and his goals for the year. The Gay Games will take place in Cologne, Germany from July 31 to August 7. Registration is open until May 31 and Chris, like us, wants to encourage as many RealJock members as possible to sign up to compete.
In the lead-up to the Games we will be featuring more interviews with athletes, including another conversation with Chris as he competes to add to his Gay Games record of five gold medals and one silver. He won the silver in his first ever Games, in 1998. Who knows? Maybe this is your year to medal, too. Sign up here
Your nickname on your website is Chunky Muscle; where did that come from?
My Ex Boyfriend has a thing for ‘chunky’ muscle men, so that’s where the name came from. It’s not really a nickname, but just a name we picked out the air for my website.
Where do you live?
Devon, in the southwest of England. I moved from London last year in an attempt to close my career out in style.
When did you come out?
At the age of 23.
Are you single or dating?
Relationships suffer when I’m training seriously for competition, so prefer to be single at the moment. I’m starting to think about life after lifting, so maybe someone special will come along at just the right time?
You had a bout of illness and injury that seriously impacted your career, and put you out of commission for a long time. Can you tell us a little more about that?
It was a whole series of events, really, starting with an emergency appendix operation that nearly cost me my life in 2007, then a rotator cuff tear in 2008, and then followed by a serious back injury in 2009. Each time it looked like I was getting strong and competitive again, and then something else happened.
The worst of all of these was the appendix operation, because it was an emergency they cut down the middle of my abdominals and at one stage I didn’t think I’d ever lift competitively again. I was pretty down at times, but throughout I tried to focus on my long term objectives to keep me motivated.
Here's Chris, healthy, happy, and well-decorated:
What's on the agenda for you in 2010, and where are the Gay Games in that?
I’ve just returned from the British Championships where I won the open category in the 82.5 kilo class and was the best lifter overall. I’ve just returned from Moscow after winning my third World Open Gold Medal, where also I was the second-best lifter overall. I also have the Gay Games, of course, in August and then the European championships in Malta first weekend of October.
I’m also scheduled to referee the World Power lifting Championships in Ireland in November. I qualified last year as an international referee and are enjoying this different aspect of the sport.
Here is Chris in action—pretty imposing:
Do you have specific competitive goals for 2010?
Retaining my world title has taken absolute priority over everything else this year. I would really like to attain my own personal best at this year’s gay games as at each of my previous three games I’ve won medals (Five Gold), but have never actually lifted my best weights at the games. There have been good reasons, such as injury in 2002 and jet lag in 2006, so with the games being in Europe it’s a major opportunity to put this issue to rest.
It would also be nice to win a European Championship during my career as this is missing from the collection.
[Ed. note: For the record, Chris' "collection" is as follows:
World Championships: three gold, two silver, two bronze
British Championship Titles: five
European Championships: one silver, one bronze
Gay Games: five gold, one silver]
The Gay Games silver was Amsterdam which was my first ever competition in 1998. If you had told me then that I would have a career resulting in three world open titles I simply would not have believed you.
What are your thoughts heading into the Gay Games this summer in Cologne?
I’m excited about the prospect of the Gay Games being in Cologne. I visited for Gay Pride last year and Games participants are promised a very warm welcome from a beautiful city.
Tell us about your Gay Games experiences over the years.
The spirit of Gay Games never really changes, as it’s all about the beautiful legacy that Tom Waddell gave to us all. Still, Cologne will be my fourth Gay Games and they have all been different in very special ways. In Amsterdam ('98) it was the athletes' Friendship Village that caught my imagination. In Sydney ('02) it was the Farewell Party at the MGM Studios and in Chicago ('06) it was the Closing Ceremony on Wrigley Field. In that ceremony I felt hugely honoured to carry the Gay Games flag destined for Cologne, alongside Olympian Leigh Ann Naidoo.
This is Chris at that closing ceremony, shown with the Deputy Mayor of Cologne, Germany:
What do the Gay Games mean to you?
It’s where I started my career. I believe I’m the only Gay Games athlete ever to have moved on to win world medals in their chosen sport. It’s a huge honour to represent the Federation of Gay Games as one of their global ambassadors.
If RealJock readers have never attended the Gay Games, then they should consider participating in this August's event in Cologne, Germany. There is still time to register as a participant in either their existing sport, or if they are more adventurous they may elect try a new sport for the first time. The beauty of the Gay Games is that there are no qualifying standards, so come on—be part of it.
Tell us a little more about that first Gay Games for you, in 1998?
It was magical in the sense that I’d lost a rugby career through injury and Gay Games gave me a second chance. It had not occurred to me that I could still compete after coming out as a gay man and to be given the chance to learn a new sport in a ‘safe’ environment changed my life. Twelve years on and I’m still winning world medals and visiting amazing countries doing something that I really enjoy.
Are you dedicating the 2010 Gay Games to anyone?
I only dedicate medals if something has particularly affected me and stirred emotion. For example, I only came across Matthew Shepard’s story in 2005 in the build up to the world championships. I cannot tell you how it took so long for this whole thing to come to my attention, but after winning my first world title in Turin I felt the urge to contact Judy Shepard and dedicate this title to his memory.
It may be something I never do again, I really don’t know.
Aside from the Gay Games, when you compete in other large powerlifting events, are there other openly gay competitors?
I very rarely meet other Gay competitors. There are a few out there, but our paths rarely cross. All of my peer group are straight, but they are totally cool with my sexuality and it’s never been an issue.
Do you communicate with gay powerlifters from around the world? And, do you have any advice for them?
Yes, we have a gay powerlifting forum that can be accessed through www.gaypowerlifting.org.
I’m always available to young athletes who ask for advice and support. I’ve been out there ‘without a road map’ as an openly gay world class athlete for over a decade and feel it’s important to offer the help that was not available to me.
Can you tell us some little-known fact about you?
I enjoy going out disco dancing occasionally!
Finally, here is the champion in his power-stance.