Harte tells transplant athletes: Do your best

IT’S not the number of medals you bring home, it’s all about achieving your personal best, football manager, Mickey Harte, told Irish transplant athletes yesterday.

The Tyrone manager took time out from preparing his team’s first match in next month’s GAA Ulster Championships to give a motivational talk to the 34 Transplant Team Ireland members in Dublin.

All of the athletes preparing for the 18th World Transplant Games in Göteborg, Sweden, in just under a month have received major organ transplants, including heart, lung, liver, kidney and pancreas.

The Irish team, ranging in age from nine to over 70 years, will participate in various sporting events at the world games that take place from June 17 to 24.

Mr Harte said he was privileged to address such an inspirational group of people who had overcome great health hurdles and were now embracing life through sport.

“This is a fantastic legacy to your organ donors who you honour by representing your country on the world stage,” he said.

He said the measure of their success would not be on the number of medals they brought home, but that they were striving to achieve their personal best in their chosen events.

And, conscious that most of the team were amateur athletes, he urged them to enjoy the experience and not be overwhelmed by it.

National team manager, Colin White, said the chance of a new lease of life through transplantation drove them to achieve great personal and sporting goals.

Mr White said his wife, Chikoyo, who suffered kidney failure unexpectedly just before they were married 10 years ago, was on dialysis and would, hopefully, go on a waiting list for a transplant.

“I work for the Irish Kidney Association (IKA) so it’s not just a job, it’s a passion,” said Mr White.

He said the publicity generated by the games gave everyone hope that transplantation was not just about keeping people alive, but was about giving back a quality of life.

Mr White said the games were about celebrating life and the strength and generosity of human spirit.

He said a team member’s first thought on winning a medal would be about the donor who made it possible. “The members have no idea who their donors are but they will just give a little nod and say: ‘Hey, this one’s for you!’”

All of the team members had raised more than €1,000 each to take part in the games. The IKA is responsible for managing the team’s participation at the games with individual athletes raising funds to cover some of the expenses.

Next weekend some team members plan to climb Croagh Patrick to try and help out those still struggling to raise funds.

* www.ika.ie.

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