Friday 20 September 2019

Irish athletes bag over 50 medals at World Transplant Games

Aoife Walsh

Over 30 Irish athletes have returned home with a haul of 50 medals after competing for the past week in the World Transplant Games in England.

Transplant Team Ireland, which is made up of 38 athletes who have each undergone transplants including bone marrow, heart, liver, lung and kidney transplants,  returned home on Saturday with a series of gold, bronze and silver medals  after competing in games such as  track and field, tennis, golf, darts, swimming, long  jump  and cycling  in the games held at Newcastle, England.

The team includes 29 men and 9 women ranging from 16 to 81-years-old. Although the group are the largest Irish transplant team to ever travel abroad, they have been competing against both the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland’s 320 competitors.

The hardworking  team bagged  gold, silver and bronze medals in games such as cycling, racing, swimming,  darts , long jump, sprinting, golf,  javelin and  pétanque. The group also competed within their respective age categories in  badminton, squash, table tennis, ten pin bowling, and  tennis.

Youngest Team Ireland member Jack O’Brien (16), from Navan, Co Meath secured three medals;  a silver in darts, a bronze in the long jump and on another bronze in the 200m sprint.  After taking part in the games for the first time, Jack achieved a personal best with a time of 26.53 seconds in the 200m sprint. Jack said: “I am delighted to get a personal best today in the 200m sprint. This week has been great, it’s been brilliant to be a part of Team Ireland at my first World Transplant Games and it’s certainly been great craic.”

Oldest team member John McAleer ( 81), from Newtownabbey,Antrim won two silver medals in pétanque and golf.

The last medal won by the Irish at the Games was a silver by Thomas Flannery, a retired Garda Superintendent and lung transplant recipient from Monaghan, who came second in the Javelin event. One day previous, the retired garda won a gold medal in the Shot Putt event.  Thomas said: “When I stand back and think about everything I’m delighted as I think of the health journey I have travelled over the last few years.”

Team Captain Harry Ward, a kidney transplant recipient from Baldoyle competed in the pétanque, darts and bowling events during the week. As the Games came to a close Harry said: “it’s been a great week, the team spirit has been strong and the wonderful supporters have been willing and able to do whatever was asked of them at a moment’s notice.

“Each and every athlete gave it their best and was ready to support the next team member that was up for competition. It was great to have all the newcomers to the team this year, and their supporters all joining us for the first time. They all slotted into the team like they had been here for years. It’s been wonderful to have my wife Mary here with me also. All the events were very well organised and all of the Team’s nineteen volunteers and supporters were excellent.”

The Irish Kidney Association will host the 2020 European Transplant & Dialysis Sports Championships in Dublin next summer (August 2nd-9th 2020) and its primary goal is to highlight the importance and success of organ donation for transplantation. Team Ireland were actively promoting the event to all European athletes this week and many teams spoke of their excitement to attend Dublin 2020.

 Team manager Colin White said, “I am so delighted by all the interest and excitement expressed for 2020. Expectations are high so we are excited and keen to deliver. The support we have had from national bodies bodes well for the partnerships that we hope to have to help us deliver the most successful European Transplant & Dialysis Championships ever.”

For more information on the World Transplant Games and the Irish athletes visit the team blog www.transplantteamireland.ie and Games website www.worldtransplantgames.org

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