By Sarah May
The 19th World Transplant Games commenced in Durban, South Africa today with members of Team Ireland competing in the 5km Road Race and the Petanque Singles event. Team Ireland got off to a fantastic start securing two medals.
The Irish team consists of 24 athletes, including 10 women and 14 men ranging in age from 12 to 68, all members have received transplants including kidney, pancreas, liver and heart. The 24 brave athletes shall be competing in the following events; Track and Field,road races, cycling, swimming, golf, tennis, table-tennis, badminton, squash, lawn bowls , petanque and ten pin bowling.
Today Team Ireland got off to a flying start. Carlow native Tony Gartland, a liver transplant recipient secured a silver medal in the 5km Road Race, 50-59 category .Tony put on a magnificent performance completing the 5km at an incredible speed. Tony was overjoyed with his victory. Following the race he stated; “I am naturally delighted. The first race breaks the tension, I can now enjoy the rest of the week. I was very nervous at the beginning, my category was very competitive compared to previous games so I am truly delighted.” Tipperary women Sheila Gregan and Orla Hogan also put on terrific performances in the Road Race today. Sheila spoke of this years games stating; ” It is absolutely terrific, everything is so relaxed. It is the first year of the 5km for women so I am delighted to finish it. The atmosphere was electric” Orla spoke of her nerves at the beginning of the race, but she undoubtedly overcame her nerves and completed the tedious 5km successfuly; ” My legs were like jelly, but I got there. The scenery was beautiful and the atmosphere was fantastic, I’m so glad i finished it.”
Team Ireland also saw victories at the Petanque event today with Tallaght man, James Reynolds securing bronze in the 18-29 category.
James was delighted to secure his first world medal. He spoke of the comradeship between himself and his opponents; “The game was relaxed, my opponents were very nice. I secured a victory in a game against an Austrian man, that had previously beaten me in Sweden, so I was delighted with that victory.” Harry Ward also played some fantastic games, and successfully reached the semi-final rounds. Bridie Nicholson, Dara McLaughlin, Charlie Ryan, Catherine Murphy and Seamus Eager all competed in the Petanque event, and each played exceptionally well.
The atmosphere at both events today was electric. The comradeship and enthusiasm, not only amongst members of Team Ireland, but also between Team Ireland and Teams from all around the world was a sight to behold, as many old friends were reacquainted. Tonight Team Ireland shall attend the Opening Ceremony of the Games. Over 1000 athletes from 50 countries will participate in this, the 19th World Transplant Games. Team Ireland is enthusiastic for the week ahead, which will undoubtedly see many victories, the making of new friendships and the reconnecting of old friends.
For Organ donor cards Freetext DONOR to 50050 or contact the Irish Kidney Association on locall 1890 543639 or log on to http://www.ika.ie. You can now store your donor card details on your smart phone by downloading the free Organ Donor Ecard app.