Australian Michelle Ferris, one of cycling’s all-time sprint stars with multiple world and Olympic medals to her credit, has been selected by the Federation of Gay Games (FGG) to be the newest Gay Games Ambassador, an international group of prominent individuals supporting the Gay Games.

The eighth edition of the quadrennial Gay Games takes place in Cologne, Germany 31 July to 10 August 2010.

“I relish the opportunity to be a Gay Games Ambassador”, said Ferris.

“The Gay Games provide a unique opportunity for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender athletes and artists from around the world to come together in celebration.

“By highlighting our sporting and cultural achievements under the three Gay Games principles of ‘Participation, Inclusion and Personal Best’, we have the opportunity to celebrate our accomplishments in a safe and supportive environment.”

Ferris’ 20-year cycling career peaked with a series of silver medals in the sprint and 500 metre time trials at the Olympic games in 1996 and 2000 and at the UCI World Cycling Championships from 1997-1999.

She captured her country’s heart at Sydney’s 2000 Olympics when, after finishing in the runner-up position in the sprint to her perennial rival Felicia Ballanger of France, she said it didn’t matter because the most important thing was that she’d set a new personal best.

After retiring from the rigours of full-time cycling training and traveling, Ferris climbed back on her bike for the competitive yet less pressure-packed 13th UCI World Masters Track Cycling Championships held in 2007 in Sydney.

She won gold in both the sprint and 500 m. time trials in the 30-39 age category and added a third gold in the 12.5 km. points race for ages 30-44.

Today, Ferris sees her athletic accomplishments as a way to bring attention to other important issues, such as those epitomized by the Gay Games.

“Until we have full legal and societal equality”, stated Ferris, “gays and lesbians, especially those with a public profile, should come out.

“Elite athletes have the responsibility and the honour of serving as role models for the LGBT community, and we can do this by living our lives proudly.”

The Gay Games Ambassadors represent a broad range of achievement in sports, the arts, business and government.

Michelle Ferris joins an illustrious roster that includes: from the UK, musician Sir Elton John, world power lifting gold medallist Chris Morgan, and former National Basketball Association player Jon Amaechi; from South Africa, Olympic beach volleyball player Leigh Ann Naidoo; from Germany, world and Olympic champion cyclists Petra Rössner and Judith Arndt.

“The selection of Michelle Ferris to be a Gay Games Ambassador is the FGG’s way of recognising her contributions to the international sport and culture community as a world champion, an Olympic medallist and an elite cyclist”, said Kate Rowe, Sydney-based FGG board member and Vice President for Diversity.

“We feel truly honoured that Michelle Ferris has accepted our invitation to become an Ambassador for the Gay Games.”

Ferris and the other Gay Games Ambassadors will promote the upcoming Gay Games VIII around the world at sporting events and public gatherings in collaboration with the FGG.

Although retired from elite competitions, Ferris continues participating in Masters cycling events and is looking forward to competing at her first Gay Games in Cologne.

For information on how to sponsor or participate in Gay Games VIII, visit www.games-cologne.com. For information concerning sponsors of the Federation of Gay Games, go to www.gaygames.org.