ON your marks, get set...
Athletes and coaches, children and OAPs, from all across the country gathered in the Winter Garden in Sheffield to celebrate the launch of next year’s British Transplant Games.
The Star revealed back in May the Games were coming to Sheffield next August 15 to 18.
Each and every athlete taking part has undergone a lifesaving organ transplant, and the aim is to raise awareness of organ donation and boost numbers on the NHS Organ Donor Register.
The Games should boost the economy, too. Last time the event was held here, in 2008, it attracted more than 2,000 competitors and visitors and generated £500,000 for the city.
Little Ellie Greenwood, seven, from Rotherham, attended the launch with dad Antony and mum Tracy.
The Meadowview Primary schoolgirl underwent a liver transplant when she was just seven months old.
Now she’s fighting fit and looking forward to the Games where she will compete in the 50m run, ball throwing, obstacle race, badminton and long jump.
Tracy said: “It’s great for the kids and it’s great for us as their parents too.
“They get to compete and keep fit and enjoy the competition, and we get to meet other people who have faced similar situations and can share our experiences. Although we only live down the road we will be coming to Sheffield to stay in a hotel with other families from around the country, as it’s a great way to meet them socially.”
William Newton, 10, of Dronfield, was there with parents Tracy and Philip and sister Megan, 13. The Dronfield Junior School boy had two liver transplants in 2002.
He’s looking forward to competing in five events, particularly table tennis.
Tracy said: “William will also be doing the 50m run. He’s not the fastest runner but he will have the biggest smile on his face, that’s for sure!”
At the other end of the age scale is Derek Johnson, 76, from Mosborough, a regular competitor having benefited from a liver transplant in the 1970s.
He said: “Before the transplant I was tired all the time. Now I can’t wait to take part once again.”
Sheffield team manager Betty Rayner knows all about what a difference a transplant can make. Kidney disease caused her husband Robert’s health to deteriorate rapidly, and Betty made the life-changing decision to give him one of her own kidneys.
Now, almost 13 years on, the couple are preparing to compete together.
“It was terrible seeing the state of his health,” said Betty. “So I decided to look into live donation.”
Within months, the couple underwent the op.
“It all went so smoothly,” said Robert, 59, a painter and decorator from Ecclesfield. “The pain, tiredness, and weakness all stopped overnight. Betty gave me a whole new lease of life.”
Opening the Games, sponsor Westfield Health’s chairman Graham Moore said: “It is a national disgrace that three people die every day while waiting for an organ. I urge everyone to sign up to become a donor.”