6 August 2013
The World Transplant Games, which wrapped up in Durban on Saturday with a moving closing ceremony, have been deemed a resounding success by athletes and organisers.
Over 1 800 participants from 50 countries enjoyed Durban’s sunshine in winter weather conditions that were warmer than the last Summer Games held in Sweden in 2011.
The Durban Games marked the first time that they had been held on African soil and the delegates were overwhelmed by the opening ceremony, featuring Zulu culture and a mass choir of 1 300 members of the public, singing the official World Transplant Games song.
Organ donor awareness
The Games serve as the biggest organ donor awareness event in the world. The aim of the Games is to offer hope to those awaiting transplants and encourage the public to become donors by showing the difference that organ transplants can make to the lives of young and old people alike.
In addition to competing in qualifying events, competitors had to be transplant recipients of either solid organs or bone marrow.
South African athletes made their mark in Durban.
One of the hosts’ standout performers was Helletje Uys, the National Secretary for the South African Transplant Sports Association and the Secretary for the World Transplant Games Local Organising Committee.
She won gold in golf and was nominated the best women’s golfer of the Games.
In addition, Uys, who has undergone a kidney transplant, added a gold medal in the shot put and broke Transplant Games’ records for the javelin, discus and shot put.
‘Fighting for your life’
Swedish athlete Martha Ehlin encapsulated the agony that most of the athletes have experienced when she said: “When you are on the list, waiting for a donor, you are not waiting, you are fighting for your life and we are now celebrating our lives at this event in Durban.”
Ehlin, who had five transplants during a 17-hour operation, won five gold medals in Gothenburg, Sweden, in 2011 and won gold for shot put, javelin and cricket ball in South Africa, as well as a silver medal in high jump.
She competed in four sports at athletics and volleyball, one dedicated to each of her five organ transplants.
Howard Dell, running for United States, set a record he desperately wanted on the last day of competition.
Competing against record holder Andre Lassooij of the Netherlands, he broke the 200m World Transplant Games record, clocking 25.96 seconds to better the previous mark of 26.79. Dell also won the 100 metres in record time.
Montague Summers of Australia broke two world Transplants Games records for the 800 and 1500 metres and equalled the 400 metre World Transplant Games record. He also raised Aus $16 000 (approx R160 000) for an organ donor project to inspire transplantees to integrate in society and sport.
The next World Transplant Games will be held in Mar del Plata, Argentina, in 2015.