Transplant Team Ireland stormed their way to success in track and field events on the penultimate day of competition at the 10th European Transplant & Dialysis Championships in Cagliari, Sardinia. With 25 countries represented at the Games the Irish continued to show their athletics strength under scorching sun at the Riccardo Santoru Athletics Field winning a total of 1 Gold, 3 Silver and 4 Bronze medals today.
Adding to the haul of medals which the 23 strong Irish team has amassed so far at the week-long games, 8 more medals were won today by kidney transplant recipients Ron Grainger (Dublin), Marie O’Connor (Clare), Pat O’Sullivan (Cork) and Orla Hogan (Tipperary), Kieran Murray (Donegal) and liver transplant recipient Mike Keohane (Cork). James Nolan (Kildare) and Emma O’Sullivan (Kilkenny/Limerick) put in excellent performances on the track narrowly missing out on medals in their respective races.
Ron Grainger from Castleknock, Dublin won a Gold medal for the 100m sprint event in his 60-69 year age category and Marie O’Connor won a Silver medal in her 50-59 age category for the 100m sprint. This came just a day after both of them winning Gold medals in Golf for their gross scores. Ron said after his race today, “I’m absolutely delighted to have been well enough to run here today. It’s been a tough year health-wise so to be well enough to compete and have the opportunity to honour my donor and their family is fantastic. Here I am fifteen years after my transplant and to be able to do these things at this point is truly amazing.”
Kilkenny native Emma O’Sullivan (age 40) who lives in Glin, Co Limerick just missed out on a medal coming fourth in the 100m sprint.
Pat O’Sullivan from Mallow, Cork won a Bronze medal in the 100m sprint event in his 50-59 year age category and later in the day picked up a second Bronze medal in the long jump event. Pat said, “I trained very hard up until Christmas and then I was injured so I haven’t got to do as much training as I would like so I am delighted with Bronze. I thought of my donor at the start line and the finish line. After the sprint I turned my focus to the Long Jump event and was delighted to win a Bronze medal in that event also. A big thanks to my family for all of their support, and a special thanks to Mallow AC and Mallow GAA for providing facilities for me to train in.”
In addition to her three medals which she won earlier in the week in Darts, Pétanque and Golf, this morning the unstoppable Marie O’Connor from Lahinch, Co Clare sped her way to winning a Silver medal in the 100m sprint event in the 50-59 year age category. Marie who has undergone two kidney transplants said, “I’m over the moon. Gold went to a lady from the UK and in third place was an Italian athlete. I was thrilled to get the Silver medal as the Italian lady had beaten me last year at the World Championships. My most important accolade is always my donor and this medal is the second prize. A big thank you to the team for their support. It’s great to meet all the other teams again, old friends and new”.
In another sporting discipline also held in the Riccardo Santoru Athletics Field, two of the Irish team won medals in their 3km and 5km Power Walks. Orla Hogan from Nenagh won her third medal, a Silver, at the week-long games today when she surprised herself in coming second in the 3km Power Walk. Earlier in the week Orla won a Bronze in swimming in the 50m freestyle and yesterday won a bronze medal in the 10 pin bowling event.
Also winning a Bronze medal today in his 5km Power Walk event was Mike Keohane, from Roscarbery in Corkwho later in the day went on to win another Bronze in the Shot Putt.
Mike Keohane said after his 5km power walk, “Conditions were very warm. It was a tight race up to the last laps. The Spanish and Polish took Gold and Silver. I was pleased with my performance and I’m glad the training has paid off. A big thank you to my coach Rob Heffernan for his training. It has made a huge difference to my technique and performance. It’s my first competition at the Games so it’s great to get a medal.” Mike later went on to win a bronze in the Shot Putt event and is now preparing for his final two events, Javelin and Discus, which will take place on Saturday.
Orla Hogan said after her 3km power walk, “It was very hot which made it very difficult but I’m delighted to have completed it and getting a Silver medal is a brilliant shock. I’m thrilled to have three medals at this championship as well as having great fun.”
James Nolan, lost out on a medal today in the 400m race, however, the award-winning butcher from Kilcullen, won a Silver medal yesterday in Golf for his net score, he has attended 28 Games including British, German, American, World and European. He said, “I went out and really enjoyed the race today. My number one thought after an event is always my donor, my sister Catherine. I’m so delighted to be here with so many amazing people. The Irish team are incredible. The resistance, acceptance and determination that each and every one of them show against adversity is so inspirational and I’m honoured to be amongst it. My son Andrew graduated from pre-school this week and I was sad to miss it but I was so proud and I’m delighted to be here. Attending the Games is a great motivation to stay fit and healthy.”
Taking part in a longer distance race at the Riccardo Santoru stadium today was Donegal Man Kieran Murray from Ramelton who competed in the 1500m race where he beat stiff competition to win a well-deserved Silver medal. Kieran said, I’m delighted to win Silver in a very tough and tactical 1500m race and Gold was won by a Finnish man. This is the first Silver I have won at the championships so it’s great to have a full set this year having won Gold and Bronze previously this week for Golf and the 5km race.”
At another venue, Joy Village in Cagliari, today some members of the team competed in 10-pin bowling doubles events. While the teams put in great performances, there were no medals secured at this event. Those competing in the Bowling doubles events included Team Captain Harry Ward (Baldoyle) and other Dubliners Paul Prendergast (Santry), Aoife Murray (Clonsilla) and Chikoyo White (Balbriggan) as well as Stephen Byrne (from Tralee) and Finian Farrell (Mullingar).
Stephen Byrne (Tralee, Kerry) who was paired with Dubliner Paul Prendergast said, “there was stiff competition from Greeks and Hungarians that were truly excellent players. I really enjoyed playing with Paul as my partner. He played very well. We worked very well as a team and we were unlucky as we finished fourth narrowly missing out on a bronze.”
The Irish team of 10 women and 13 men ranging in age from 31 to 80 and includes 20 athletes who underwent kidney, pancreas or liver transplants as well 3 dialysis patients. The team are competing amongst competitors from 25 nations which for the first time in the Championships history includes Russia and Kazakhstan. The European Transplant & Dialysis Sports Championships are a celebration of life and showcase the value of sport and regular physical activity for people on dialysis and transplant recipients.
The European Transplant & Dialysis Sports Championships are open to all kidney, liver, heart, lung, pancreas, bone marrow transplant recipients as well as dialysis patients. The multi-sport event includes athletics, badminton, cycling, darts, golf, mini marathon, petanque, swimming, table tennis, tennis, ten pin bowling, virtual triathlon and the hosts have also added archery and surf-casting. Athletes are divided into six age groups (18-29, 30-39, 40-49, 50-59, 60-69, 70+). Swimming and track and field bring the sporting specialties total to 39.
A homecoming reception for Transplant Team Ireland will take place at Dublin airport’s arrivals hall (Terminal 1) when the team arrives home on a Eurowings flight from Dusseldorf on Sunday 24th June around 3.15pm.
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 the charity organisation which manages Transplant Team Ireland’s participation at British, European and World Transplant Games events.
For more information on the 10th European Transplant & Dialysis Sports Championships and the Irish athletes visit the team blog www.transplantteamireland.wordpress.com or visit the Games website http://www.cagliarietdsc2018.it