It was a triumphant week for Transplant Team Ireland at the 10th European Transplant & Dialysis Championships in Cagliari as they won a staggering 54 medals including 11 Gold, 20 silver, 23 Bronze. A large turnout of family friends and supporters turned out to meet the team when they come through the Arrivals’ Hall at Dublin airport’s Terminal One yesterday (Sunday 24th June).
Twenty three members of Team Ireland, including 10 women and 13 men, who range in age from 31 to 80, competed in intense heat and against strong competition this week on the sun drenched picturesque Italian island of Sardinia. The positive spirit of the Irish shone through among the 25 competing nations. At the Games athletes acknowledged their gratitude to their donors. The Games are a celebration of life and showcase the value of sport and regular physical activity for people on dialysis and transplant recipients.
Team Ireland put in strong performances at several sporting events including Mini Marathon, Swimming, Golf, Bowling, Pétanque, Darts, Track & Field and many more.
The Irish Golf Team of five swept the decks winning 3 Gold and 2 Silver medals. Eldest Team Ireland member and eldest competitor overall at this year’s Championships, John Mc Aleer (from Newtownabbey, Antrim) was one of these successful Golfers, taking the Silver for his net score. A day before the retired university lecturer won a Bronze medal in Petanque event. John, a retired university lecturer, was also given a special recognition award at the closing ceremony gala dinner for his most senior competitor status.
At the closing ceremony Gala dinner last night (Saturday) Chikoyo White from Balbriggan, Dublin was awarded with a trophy for being the best athlete in the Female Dialysis category. Chikoyo, a long term dialysis patient, won two silver medals in Petanque and 10-pin bowling.
Following the games closing ceremony Team Manager Colin White reflected on the week saying, “I’m so proud of Team Ireland for all of their successes but most importantly I am tremendously proud of the team spirit that I have witnessed here. The bonds that have been made here will endure the years. I also would like to give special mention to Team Captain Harry Ward, he has played a blinder, he is so well recognised by everyone and a friend to all. Heather Gunning, the team doctor, has ensured everyone remained hydrated, safe from the sun and generally well throughout the week. We can now look forward to Dublin hosting of the next European Games in August 2020.”
Team Ireland Swimmers, Deirdre Faul (Dalkey, Dublin), Shelia Gregan and Orla Hogan Ryan (both from Nenagh), and Peter Heffernan (Skerries, Dublin) saw huge success in the Pool on Wednesday with each Irish athlete securing medals. The total medals haul from the swimming event was 3 Gold, 4 Silver and 3 Bronze. Champion Swimmer Deirdre Faul (age 50), a liver transplant recipient from Dublin, kept up her stellar success record scooping three Gold and two Silver medals in her five races at the swimming event.
The youngest member of the team Rachel Eagleton (31), from (Bettystown, Co. Meath) won a Silver medal in her Tennis Singles event.
Retired urologist Ron Grainger, aka The Flying Doctor, from Castleknock, Dublin proved to be unbeatable winning Gold medals in three events – the 200m sprint, 100m sprint and the Golf Event for his gross score. Ron said, “I feel blessed to have been able to compete at this level and with this achievement. I think if my donor and how this would not have been possible without them.”
Kieran Murray from Ramelton in Donegal, was victorious at the track and field events. On the final day of competition, Kieran won a Bronze in the 800m race, the kidney transplant recipient’s fourth medal at the Games. During the course of the week-long games Kieran also won a Gold medal for Golf, a Silver in the 1500m sprint and Bronze in the 5km walk. Kieran said, “I am delighted with my medal and indeed the medal haul I achieved throughout the week. I would like to thank my donor who is always in my thoughts. My main aim at the Games is to promote organ donation and show how it transforms and save lives.”.
Games Veteran Charlie Ryan, a liver transplant recipient from Cobh, Co. Cork retained his decade-long title as European Transplant & Dialysis Champion in Darts, winning Gold. Charlie, a retired skipper, who competed in the 70+ age category defended and won his six in a row Champion Darts title having won Gold at every biennial European games since 2008.
Another Team Ireland athlete who also successfully defended a European title was Marie O’Connor (Lahinch, Clare). Marie remained the undefeated European champion in the female golf event securing the Gold in the Golf Gross category. Marie has won Gold in Golf at every World and European Championships since she began competing with Team Ireland with the exception of the World Games when they were held in Argentina which she didn’t attend. Marie also enjoyed success off the golf course by winning a Silver in the 100m sprint, Bronze in the Darts triples event and Bronze in the Petanque Singles event. Marie reflected that her donor is her true “gold prize”.
Team Captain Harry Ward, from Baldoyle, also commented on the team spirit that he witnessed amongst Team Ireland, he said, “I am very proud of how the team has gelled this year. Everyone has supported everyone else and the Team has been like one big family. It’s been a truly fantastic week.”
Jamaican Champion sprinter Travane Morrison, who is understood to be one of the fastest 100m sprinters in Ireland, attended the Championships this year with Team Ireland to observe the Irish team for his Masters Research at IT Tralee. At the end of the week, Travane said, “the European Transplant Games is no different from regular sporting events. It is governed by the same rules and the standard is very high despite the health challenges that the athletes have faced. It’s been a really fun week, the team are great people to be around, the way they appreciate life and have fun is inspirational.”
The Irish Kidney Association is the charity organisation which manages Transplant Team Ireland’s participation at British, European and World Transplant Games events.
The Irish Kidney Association is looking forward to bringing the biennial European Games back to Ireland in 2020 after it successfully hosted the 6th European Transplant & Dialysis Games in Dublin in 2010 which attracted over 500 participants and supporters from 23 countries. The Irish Kidney Association is looking forward to welcoming new members to Transplant Team Ireland for the Games which will be held in August 2020 and securing the support of sports’s national governing bodies, recruiting volunteers and offering excellent sponsorship opportunities for businesses.