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Countdown to the Gay Games ...
Profiles by Ross Forman

This article shared 3106 times since Wed Mar 1, 2006
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Age: 37

Height: 6'4

Weight: 182 pounds

Status: partner Russell Kieffer, 36. The two have been together for almost 15 years.

Grew up in: Neenah, Wis.

Now lives in: Hollywood, Calif.

High School: St. Mary Central ( Menasha, Wis. ) , class of 1987

College: St. Thomas ( St. Paul, Minn. ) , class of 1991; degree in theology

Master's Degree: New Mexico State University; social work

Now: Has worked for five years as a clinical social worker at the UCLA Cancer Center

Gay Games sport: Basketball

Team: Long Beach ( Calif. ) Rebels, which won the Silver Medal in 2002 in Australia

Hobbies: Traveling, movies, hiking and biking

It's a Fact: Is a living organ donor, having given up part of his lung in April 2004

Tom Pier attended Gay Games V in Amsterdam in 1998 as a fan or, as he puts it, 'as an excuse to go to Europe.' He attended with his partner, Russell Kieffer, as part of a three-week European adventure and was quickly captivated by the competition and the camaraderie.

'The experience was like nothing I've ever experienced. There were so many athletes, so many people from around the world. It was overwhelming,' he said.

When the Sydney Games rolled around in 2002, he 'almost begged' the Long Beach ( Calif. ) rebels basketball team to accept him as their team manager. But he actually ended up playing … and his team won a silver medal.

'Playing was incredible,' he said. 'I can't even describe how overwhelming the experience is—being with other athletes from around the world, converging in sportsmanship and camaraderie.

'I expected the Games to be fun and thought people would be in good spirits, but the thing that really blew me away was the level of competition. It was extremely high, and that wasn't just on the basketball court, but also in swimming, diving and even table tennis. The Games far exceeded my expectation.'

One thing that exceed his expectations was the inclusion aspect of the Games. Pier, for instance, remembers seeing a female basketball player who had only one arm, yet she was playing. 'That was amazing to watch,' he said.

'One thing I always remember from the Games is, the spirit of competition and everyone just coming together.'

When he went to Sydney, it was the first time he had played basketball since high school. 'That was definitely a personal challenge.' It also was a challenge for the Rebels to come together, Pier said, 'but we definitely did.'

'We developed this family feeling and, sure, we weren't the most talented team ever, but we could push each other unlike any team. And I think we exceeded our talent.'

So what's expected for Gay Games VII in Chicago this summer?

'It's going to be a spirited competition; that's for sure,' Pier said. 'There has been a healthy competition which has developed over the years, and I know there will be some key re-matches. I'm hoping we'll be in the medals race again.'

Pier predicted top basketball teams will come from San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York City and Amsterdam, among other places.

'I love Chicago; I cannot wait to go back,' Pier said. 'I will have a lot of family and friends at the Games, which will be nice. I always feel like I'm coming home being in Chicago.

'My three goals in competition are to work hard, play smart and have fun.'

See .

This article shared 3106 times since Wed Mar 1, 2006
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