Kilcullen butcher James Nolan will once again pull on the green jersey and represent his country at the European Transplant and Dialysis Games.
The Irish Team which comprises 17 men and nine women ranging in age from 18 to 74 includes kidney, liver and pancreas transplant recipients as well as people on dialysis.
James received a kidney from his sister 25 years ago, and hasn’t looked back.
The Games will be held in Zagreb, Croatia from August 18 to 25 and will involve more than 300 athletes from 28 countries throughout Europe.
Every athlete at the Games will either have already received a kidney, liver, heart, lung, pancreas or bone marrow transplant or be on dialysis.
It’s James’s 14th games, and the emphasis has changed for him over the years. It’s not so much about medals as it used to me. “But now, if I don’t get a medal, I just shake the hand of the three people ahead of me”.
But he says, he’s as excited about these games as any other he ever attended!
James is the only athlete from Kildare. He recently celebrated the 25th anniversary of his transplant with his sister Catherine who gave him a kidney.
It will be a tough week for James. After competiting in Croatia in the golf earlier in the week, and track and field later in the week, he flies to Londo to take part in the world games, “if the legs are up to it, and that’s a bit if,” he told the Leinster Leader.
However, he revealed that his training has gone well, and he thanked in particular local man Shay Walker for training him in all weathers since the start of the year - and his sister for giving him what he calls “the gift of life”.
Reflecting on his celebrations of the 25th anniversary of his transplant, he said it was “great to be able to do things, rather than being sick”.
“That’s the essence of the transplant games. It’s about having that ability to live your life.
Team managers say that the Irish Team has a great reputation for fair play and strong competitiveness at international events.
“Our team of 26 competitors, including six newcomers, has prepared well and we are looking forward to joining our friends from across Europe in celebrating life through sport,” Team Manager Colin White explained.
The games seek to promote organ donation amongst the public.
“The message from these Games that organ donation works,” Mr. White explained.
“Hopefully it will encourage people to think about organ donation,” Mr. Nolan said.
Athletes will compete in a range of sports including badminton, tennis, cycling, darts, golf, petanque, swimming, table tennis, ten pin bowling, tennis, volleyball, mini-marathon and track and field events.
He and the other members of the 26 strong Irish Transplant Games team attended a motivational talk by the renowned transplant surgeon and 1970s Dublin All Star, Mr Hickey.
Both a avid sportsman and a brilliant surgeon, Dr. Hickey gave a special motivational speech to the Irish team when they gathered at ALSAA sports complex in Dublin Airport last Sunday.
“The goal of successful organ transplantation is not only to save lives, but also to enable the complete physical, social, mental and spiritual rehabilitation of people with organ failure,” Dr. Hickey explained.
- Conor McHugh