British Transplant Games: Northern Ireland athletes arrive for event

For many of us, sport is about taking part, about competing, about trying to win.But for some, sport is about something bigger: it's a celebration of a life.As the Commonwealth Games begin in Birmingham, a very special sporting occasion is taking place in Leeds: the British Transplant Games, a four day event featuring more than 800 athletes, all of whom have received organ or tissue transplants.

The Northern Ireland team comprises 17 competitors and all are keen to stress the life-saving role of organ donation.Sharon Millen, who has had two liver transplants, said: "I would have died when I was 18 if it hadn't been for organ donation. This year I'm competing in 100 metres, long jump, discus, and archery. This will be my seventh Games this year. My first Games was in Belfast in 2011, so yeah, I'm a veteran."Cyclist Richie Sheerin was diagnosed with multiple myeloma - a bone marrow cancer - in 2018, he said: "I've had a tandem bone marrow or Stem Cell transplant. The test results that have come back have always been quite positive over the past few months and I'm just really looking forward to getting over here and being competitive on the bike again."The Transplant Games were first held more than 40 years ago. Since then they've been staged all around the UK.For the athletes, taking part is a life-changing, life-affirming goal.Team Northern Ireland's manager Kathryn Glover said: "We've got seven new members this year who were all transplanted during the pandemic which is fantastic."I was transplanted in 2009, my transplant was a kidney. I'm competing in the swimming and this is my ninth British Games, and every year I look forward to it. It's fantastic to see friends that you haven't seen for a while, and I get a real buzz from competing every year."Sharon Millen agreed: "Thanks to organ donation we are able to compete and train and work full-time, and just do normal things, so it's amazing."The Games encourage transplant patients to regain fitness and meet new challenges, but they also boost public awareness of the need for more organ donors.The event is a chance to say a thank you to the donors and their families for that most precious gift: the gift of life.

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