A teenager who brought home four medals from the World Transplant Games dedicated his win to his “hero” dad who donated the kidney that changed his life.
Just last year Andrew Duncan, 15, from Clonmel, Co Tipperary, had the life-saving operation after he was diagnosed with kidney failure at the age of 12.
But yesterday he returned from the 19th World Transplant Games in Durban, South Africa, with two gold medals, one silver and one bronze in squash, badminton and table tennis.
Andrew said: “I’ve unofficially dedicated them to my dad Malcolm. He’s supported me so much and helped me out with sport throughout the years.
“My uncle helped me too with my badminton moves. I’m so happy I’ve done them proud, it’s definitely for them.”
Andrew is a student at Rockwell College and is going into fourth year – having just finished the Junior Cert.
His mum Audrey travelled to the Games with him and he said he is already gearing up for the next competition.
Andrew added: “I think the next thing is to train for the European Games in Poland next year and Argentina in two years, hopefully I’ll get to them both.
“I do love playing racket sports. It’s amazing to represent your country in something you love doing and it shows the benefit of transplantation through sport.”
Andrew and the 23 other brave athletes arrived home from the world’s only games dedicated to people who have undergone organ transplants – bringing with them an impressive haul of 34 medals.
Homecoming, Transplant athletes arrive at Dublin Airport from South Africa yesterday
Runner Tony Gartland, of Hacketstown in Co Carlow, was the first man to ever receive a liver transplant in Ireland and he took home four medals yesterday.
He secured one gold, one silver and two bronze and he paid tribute to his deceased organ donor for his success.
Tony said: “Yes, I was the first, at St Vincent’s Hospital 20 years ago.
“I can’t believe I’m still alive and kicking after all those years and without their skill and dedication, I wouldn’t be alive today. I’d also like to acknowledge my donor and his family.
“I don’t know who they are, but they’re out there somewhere and without them I wouldn’t be alive, never mind taking part in the Transplant Games.”
The Irish team, who range in age from 12 to 68, competed against 1,000 athletes from 50 countries in events such as golf, swimming, tennis and athletics.
Ireland was placed 14th overall on the medals table scooping 12 gold, 10 silver and 12 bronze.
Tony Gartland, Andrew Duncan and John Moran
The youngest member of the team was 12-year-old Oisin O’Gorman, from Co Waterford, who secured a gold in badminton and two bronze medals in the long jump and ball throw events – age category 12 to14 years.
John Moran, who will celebrate his 55th birthday on Saturday, was greeted at the airport by his wife Angela and children as well as his older brother Frank who donated a kidney to him 28 years ago.
He bagged an astounding three gold medals for coming first in the 20km cycling event, 1,500m race and 800m race and his silver was secured at his first event – the 5km cycling time trial.
Tipperary woman Sheila Gregan took the gold medal in the virtual triathlon event which combined her speed in the 20km cycle, the 5km race and the 400m freestyle swim.
A regular triathlete and avid swimmer, she said she was delighted with the result.
Earlier in the week Sheila won a bronze medal in the 400m freestyle event.
She also reflected on her donor following her win saying: “At the end of the day the reason I am here is down to my donor and the decision the donor’s family took to donate their loved one’s organs.
“I find it difficult to articulate my gratitude in words so I honour my donor by using my body to the best of its abilities, through sport.”
Team manager Colin White said: “Our hosts put on a spectacular week that brought together inspiring people from all over the world to celebrate the gift of life through sport and demonstrate that organ donation and transplantation works.”
And team captain Harry Ward added: “It’s wonderful to be here with such a wonderful team and it’s fantastic to see them all competing to the best of their abilities.”
The Irish competitors were greeted to a rapturous welcome from family, friends and supporters when they came through the Arrivals Hall at Dublin Airport’s Terminal 2.
Among the greeters was Transplant Surgeon David Hickey, from Beaumont Hospital, who carried out many of the kidney transplants for members of the team.