Transplant Team Ireland has put in sizzling performances, securing a Gold, a Silver and 2 Bronze medals, as they battled the heat in the first day of events at the 21st World Transplant Games in Malaga, Spain.
Tallaght athlete Lenny Ryan from Tymonville secured a bronze in the Petanque events to go with the two he won last summer at the European Games.
Speaking after his win, the kidney transplant recipient said:
“I really enjoyed the challenge. I beat an Iranian athlete in the third round.
“He was a lovely guy and it was an enjoyable and close game.
“I played against a Thai athlete in the semi-final and unfortunately lost to him. The weather is scorching which is an added challenge. I’m delighted to have won the bronze and I dedicate it to my donor.”
Galway kidney transplant recipient Sinead McGowan won the first medal for the Irish team, a Silver, out of a total of four bagged today by Transplant Team Ireland. Sinead crossed the line in 2nd place in the 5km Road Race event.
Hours later, the Irish team added three more medals to their first day tally, a Gold and 2 Bronze, at another venue in Malaga where Petanque (singles) was being held.
The Gold medal was won by liver transplant recipient Charlie Ryan from Cobh in the Petanque singles event and kidney transplant recipient Marie O’Connor from Lahinch won Bronze.
Under the searing heat which reached the high 30s today, Sinead McGowan, from Renmore, and now living in Australia, put in an impressive performance with her personal best time and crossing the 5km distance line in second place coming in just behind a Canadian and ahead of a UK competitor.
After her medal win, Sinead said, “I’m still shocked that I won a medal. A Canadian won the race and the UK was 3rd. It was a tough race and very hot. I am very grateful to my donor, my brother Seamus, for making this possible”. When asked about whether she was acclimatised to the heat, as the Renmore native now lives and works in Australia, Sinead said, “It was very hot for the race. Normally I would train early in the morning in Australia at around 6am”.
Sinead will be taking part in more track and field events later in the week as well as in a cycling event before the games come to a close on Sunday 2nd July.
Transplant Team Ireland includes 4 liver and 23 kidney transplant recipients ranging in age from 30 to 79 who will compete against almost 1000 participants from more than 50 countries at what will be the largest gathering of transplant recipients this year. The Irish Kidney Association is responsible for coordinating and managing Transplant Team Ireland’s participation at European and World Transplant Games events.
Expressing good wishes to the 27 strong Irish team before they departed for the World Games were the cream of sporting personalities including Martin O’Neill, Ruby Walsh, GAA’s Mickey Harte, Alan Brogan and David Hickey the former Dublin footballer and Transplant surgeon, Kilkenny Hurling All Star Michael Fennelly as well as the new president of the Olympic Council of Ireland Sarah Keane.
The Ambassador of Spain José María Rodríguez-Coso also expressed his good wishes and held a reception for members of the team at his residence in Dublin the week before they left for the Games.
The Irish team includes four newcomers. Although the main objective for team members is to embrace life and promote organ donation, some returning team members will also be contesting World titles. Keen to build on their medal successes at the previous World Transplant Games in Argentina in 2015, Deirdre Faul, Kieran Murray, Tony Gartland and Peter Heffernan have being training hard in anticipation of the competition in Malaga. Between them, the much smaller team of four won 13 medals including 7 Gold, 4 Silver and 2 Bronze in Argentina. Two years previously at the World Transplant Games in Durban, South Africa 2013, the Irish team of 24 athletes scooped 34 medals including 12 Gold, 10 Silver and 12 bronze with 50 competing countries.
Athletes compete in their respective age categories in the following events: badminton, cycling, darts, golf, petanque, squash, swimming, table tennis, ten pin bowling, tennis, mini-marathon, and track and field.