LAKEWOOD, Ohio - For decades-long ice skating fans of the city of Lakewood's Winterhurst Ice Rink, seeing it now re-titled as Serpentini Arena at Winterhurst, made for a few comments pertaining to progress's winds of change as Gay Games 9 athletes and visitors made their way into this cool, dual-court venue for Tuesday's figure skating events.
It wasn't all the beloved area rink's name on this ice skating facility that suggested change Tuesday. Marni Halasa and her ice dancing partner Chris Lipari grew up in the Akron area. Traveling from New York City to compete in front of family also coupled with a desire to take part in the changing of Cleveland's impressions of all-inclusive sporting events.
"The Gay Games are all about inclusion, personal bests and just part of something that hopefully has a broader impact on the world and on this community,' said Lipari.
"It's a very big deal for Cleveland and I think Cleveland is really excited to have the games. I actually grew up skating at the Winterhurst Figure Skating Club, so I'm so excited, we're both excited to be here. It's like coming around full circle," said Halasa.
For Kent State University student and member of her local ROTC, Brittany Martin also grew up skating with the professional approach at Winterhurst. Asked by friends working on a journalism project for Kent's LGBTQ Fusion Magazine as a model on the ice for them skating with their flag, Martin said she decided to back her friends as a competitor as well for the Gay Games.
"Since I was kind of already associated with the Games I figured why not compete just for the heck of it. It's right my home rink, so I might as well represent my home rink in The Gay Games and support it," said Martin. "I've grown up with a lot of friends that have been gay and have had to deal with coming out and it's been difficult, so I'm here to show my support for them."
For a Rachel Durbin-Nowicki, a visiting St. Louis, Missouri-area college student, an ice skating childhood memory from her home in Chicago brought her to Cleveland in 2014 in support as well.
"I heard about one of the Gay Games in Chicago when I was little. I went there to support my two moms, and I knew that I always wanted to go to the Gay Games as an ally then, and now that I am out I'm so excited to be here," said Durbin-Nowicki. "It's very important to me; for myself and for my family. To know that there are so many people out here that welcome you and that are here to cheer you on, they keep you going."
For information on the latest updates and schedules go to the Gay Games website .