Real Athlete is an ongoing series of interviews with inspirational, out gay athletes from around the world. Are you a Real Athlete? Take our Real Athlete Survey.
A 29-year-old landscape designer from Los Angeles, Brian Paul feels a need for speed. A veteran of the UCLA track team, Paul led Track Team LA to the Gay Games in Sydney as both a sprinter and a coach. How’s that for versatile?
What’s your team like?
The group is mostly sprinters and hurdlers with some jumpers. I coached the team for the Sydney Games and now Chicago. There is such a great age difference between everyone, but we all come together as a family. There is always funny stuff that goes down in practice. Being the coach, I get all the complaints. I also run with the team and lead the fast group. Sometimes, I try to mix the groups up, especially when they goof off too much.
What is your goal for Gay Games Chicago 2006? Going for the gold?
The team's goal is to achieve the highest medal count for any sprint program with a diversity in medals between the female and male athletes.
My goal is to try to repeat my medal count of 5 gold medals in the Sydney Games. The competition is going to be more intense this games.
Our biggest rivals are New York and Seattle. They have strong teams.
What impact has participating in the Gay Games had on your life?
This changed my life, new friends, new attitude, a fresh look at the gay athletic lifestyle that to me seemed non-existent. I feel confident that I can grow as a gay male and not be involved in the parties and drugs that consume most of my peers. All of us from team LA are a real family who will come back together to train, laugh and go through the hard times together for the one goal of the love of the sport. The drive to accomplish a ‘win’ is strong, but on the whole it's being part of an amazing organization and a great global effort.
How long have you been playing your sport?
Ever since I was in first grade. I won a prize ribbon. I really progressed in middle school, then exceled in high school in San Diego, Calif. I eventually got a full scholarship to UCLA.
What role has sports played in your life?
Sports and track and field helped me through the hardest time in my life: my mother’s death and the separation of my family. Without track and my high school coach, I’m not sure if I would be here today.
What do you consider your main achievements or accomplishments, whether in your sport or otherwise?
I'm a three-time U.S. Olympic trials qualifier, an American Record Holder in the Distance Medley. I'm a two-time U.S. National Champion, four-time All-American at UCLA, six-time Pac-10 Champion, four-time Cal-Nevada Champion and UCLA team captain. I was inducted into the San Diego Hall of Fame.
Has someone served as an inspiration or as a mentor to you? If so, who?
My high school coach Don Jones. My college and pro track coach John Smith.
What other sports have you've played or play? How did you chose the sport you will compete in at Gay Games VII?
I ran cross country in high school. I currently compete in triathlons and swim and bike. I will be sprinting in the Chicago Games.
What is your highest level of competitive sport in which you took part?
I turned Pro in 2000 with HSI International.
Have you been out in your sport? What prompted you to come out of the closet?
Yes. I had to come out. During my second year at UCLA because I broke up with my boyfriend who was on the track team and I could not perform correctly. No one knew what was going on with me. It was a trying time for me.
Interview courtesy of the Gay Games VII organizers. For more information about this year's Gay Games and how you can participate, visit www.chicagogaygames.org.