Chris Morgan, known worldwide as "Chunky" and arguably the best openly gay powerlifter ever, is primed for this summer's Gay Games in Cologne, Germany.
He's gunning for his personal best.
"At my three previous Gay Games, I've won medals, but have never actually lifted my best weights," said Morgan, who has claimed six medals at the Games ( five Gold, one Silver ) . "There have been good reasons [ for not lifting my best at past Games, ] such as [ an ] 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."
Morgan, 37, now lives in Devon in the southwest of England. He moved there last year from London "in an attempt to close my career out in style," he said.
And what a career it's been. Just consider his resume:
At various world championships, he's won two gold, two silver and two bronze medals.Read more story below....
He has five British Championship titles.
Regarding the European Championships, he has one silver and one bronze medal.
"I've just returned from the British Championships, where I won the open category in the 82.5-kilogram class and was the best overall lifter," he said. "Next up are the World Championship 'Single Event' and the defense of my world dead lift title. Then it's the Gay Games in August, and the European Championships in Malta in October.
Plus, he is scheduled to referee the World Powerlifting Championships in Ireland in November. "I qualified last year as an international referee and am enjoying this different aspect of the sport," he said.
But what's the top priority on his list? "Retaining my World Title takes absolute priority over everything else this year," he said. "It would also be nice to win a European Championship during my career as this is missing from the collection."
Morgan, a practice manager for a firm of financial advisers, is single. He came out at age 23.
"I'm excited about the prospect of the Gay Games being in Cologne," Morgan said. "I visited [ Cologne ] for Gay Pride last year and Gay Games participants [ will experience ] a very warm welcome from a beautiful city.
"The spirit of [ the ] Gay Games never really changes; it's all about the beautiful legacy that Tom Waddell gave to us all."
Cologne will be Morgan's fourth Games.
"Each [ past ] Games has been different in very special ways," he said. "In Amsterdam ( 1998 ) , it was the athletes' Friendship Village that caught my imagination. In Sydney ( 2002 ) , it was the Farewell Party at the MGM Studios. In Chicago ( 2006 ) , it was the Closing Ceremony on Wrigley Field.
"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 honor to represent the Federation of Gay Games as one of their global ambassadors."
In Chicago in 2006, Morgan carried the Gay Games flag destined for Cologne alongside Olympian Leigh-Ann Naidoo.
"It was magical [ in 1998 ] in the sense that I'd lost a rugby career through injury and Gay Games gave me a second chance," Morgan said. "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 [ later ] and I'm still winning world medals and visiting amazing countries doing something that I really enjoy."
And at times doing it for others.
"I only dedicate medals if something has particularly affected me and stirred emotion," he said. "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."
More about "Chunky":
Nickname: "My ex-boyfriend has a thing for 'Chunky' musclemen, so that's where the name came from. It's not really a nickname, but just a name we picked out of the air for my Web site."
Relationships: "They suffer when I'm training seriously for competition, so I 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."
Favorite teams: Rugby Union ( Leicester Tigers ) ; Soccer ( Coventry City ) ; NFL ( Miami Dolphins )
Favorite pro athlete: Johnny Wilkinson, England rugby
Favorite movie: Casino Royale
Little-known fact: "I enjoy going out disco dancing occasionally."
Favorite U.S. city: "Oooooooh ...... that's not fair. It has to be Chicago."
Other gay powerlifters: "I very rarely meet other gay competitors. There are a few out there, but our paths rarely cross. All of my [ fellow elite-level powerlifters ] are straight, but they are totally cool with my sexuality and it's never been an issue."