Kristian Nergaard

Kristian Nergaard

For those of us who find watching a game of tennis exhausting, Kristian Nergaard stands out as a powerful example of energy and endurance.   Now 67, Kristian has competed in the Gay Games— the world’s largest sporting and cultural event organized by, and specifically for lesbiangaybisexual, and transgender athletes, artists and musicians— every four years since his first “games” in Vancouver in 1990. As a founding member of the San Francisco Tsunami Masters Swim Team and co-founder of the world’s first-known gay and lesbian Triathlon team (“Out to Tri”), Kristian has traveled to New York, Sydney, Amsterdam, Chicago, and Cologne to represent San Francisco in swimming, golf, and triathlon.   In the early 1990’s Kristian was the first openly gay person to do the Alcatraz Swim, the Alcatraz triathlon, and the Golden Gate Swim (from San Francisco to Marin).

The Gay Games rules are democratic. Anyone can enter any competition within his or her own age group. Kristian explained, “on the day of competition all the contestants in sports like swimming or triathlon (in age groups by five-year increments) can complete their events and know how they placed. We use the established rules and regulations of each sport and follow the same international standards as other Masters Sports.”

For all his commitment to sports, Kristian was never tempted to enter into Olympic-level training. Said Kristian, “The time and financial commitment is enormous. I never had the means, or ability to train for the Olympics. It was too large a time commitment for me; you basically would have to give up 15 years of your life.”

Born in Norway to a family that loved sports, Kristian says there were no known gay athletes in Norway when he was growing up. “I lived a very closeted life in Norway and couldn’t wait to leave.”

Kristian began his professional career at SAS (Scandinavian Airlines System), and later moved to Air France. Free airline tickets allowed him to travel the world. Since he speaks four languages fluently, he was linguistically comfortable in many places. Arriving in San Francisco in 1975, Kristian began working for Hewlett Packard (HP), traveling domestically and internationally. He represented both SAS and HP in skiing and further represented HP in triathlons, swimming and golf.

Kristian is also a former ski instructor and ski trip leader. For the last 20+years he has led ski trips to Chile, Argentina, Switzerland, Austria, Italy and France. Although Kristian was initially closeted at HP, he became aware of HP’s hidden gay employee network, “The Friends of Dorothy,” which he later joined.

On the Board of Directors of the HP Bay Area Ski Club Kristian gathered staff members from many regions of the world to ski in well and lesser-known ski resorts.

“Chile and Argentina are not as developed as many European resorts, “ said Kristian, “but one of their great benefits is that their winter is our summer, so avid skiers can still get clear mountain slopes and great skiing year-round.”

Training and teaming up with the SF Track and Field Club coached by Tom Waddell, (the founder of the Gay Games), Kristian’s first “games” included Swimming and Triathlon.   Since then, he has won two gold medals for Triathlon, as well as a bronze in Sydney. He also medaled (it’s a verb created by sports writers!) in seven out of eight swimming events in last year’s Cleveland Gay Games: three gold, four silver and two bronze medals. His 4×100 meter medley relay team recorded the fifth fastest time in the nation in their age group for 2014.

It is in the Triathlon in which Kristian excels. “ I do well in this sport because I’m a well-rounded athlete,” he said. “I might not do as well in the individual sports that make up the Triathlon, but in the combined three events I can compete excellently for my age group.”

“What is now known as the ‘International (or Olympic) Distance Triathlon’ is an endurance event.   It consists of one mile open-water swimming, 25 miles bicycling, and 10 kilometers running,” he said with excitement in his voice.

Kristian also contributed to the Gay Games by representing San Francisco as a delegate to the Federation of Gay Games and as co-chair of Team San Francisco for two years. As co-founder of Golden Gate Golf, the Bay Area’s gay and lesbian golf group, Kristian has been a role model and leader for many younger gay athletes. He continues to prove that the aging does not have to inhibit an athlete.

Currently semi-retired, Kristian teaches English and Norwegian. As a San Francisco City Guide he also leads guided tours of Chinatown, Fisherman’s’ Wharf and Golden Gate Bridge.   He is a happy man, married to his long-time partner Douglas McCracken, who is the principal bassoonist in the Redwood Symphony Orchestra. They live in Bernal Heights and were married at City Hall in 2008.

Interview by Emerald O’Leary

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