ENJOYMENT and helping to save lives – it was business as usual for Colin Mitchell at the World Transplant Games last month.
The Worthing athlete was competing in Gothenburg, Sweden, in his seventh games since a liver transplant back in 1989, and he added another two gold and one bronze medal to his tally.
He successfully retained, for the fifth games running, his 5k racewalking title, as well as adding a gold in the men’s doubles tennis, and bronze in the 5k run.
But Mitchell admitted the games are not just for those currently competing, but are also to raise awareness and possibly save lives of others.
He said: “The games aren’t just designed for our satisfaction, but to help encourage people to sign on to the donors list, and it really does.
“It shows they have increased in every country after the games have been held. It’s nice to know we are not only enjoying ourselves but helping to save lives.”
This Games was one of his better hauls, although he has had some special accomplishments in his seven events – including breaking the 5k racewalking world record back in 1999 in Hungary.
He said: “I was so chuffed, as I am getting older all the time and training is hard. I found last year particularly tough.
“I am still enjoying it, though, it’s really fabulous all getting together with everyone and seeing old faces, as well as meeting new ones.”
The 61-year-old has a rich history in sport both before and after his transplant, which resulted from a blood disorder.
He was a keen cricketer and hockey player before and since the transplant, he has branched into other sports, starting with athletics and, since, racewalking and tennis.
He is still passionate about cricket and he captained a GB transplant team against Australia in 2007.
He said: “We managed to put a GB team together to go out to Australia to play them, but unfortunately lost 2-1. But we then played them back here in 2007 and beat them. That has been a real highlight for me, beating them over a five-day series.”
A 130-strong team from the UK took part in this year’s games and they won a total of 286 medals, 115 gold, 94 silver and 77 bronze.
There were 50 countries who took part with 1,200 transplant athletes joining hands to raise international awareness of organ donation.
After originally thinking this was going to be his last games, Mitchell has now admitted that he is likely to compete again.
He said: “I thought this was it, but then you get there with the atmosphere and really feel it again. The next games are in 2013 in Africa, so I think I might try that if I am fit, and then that might be it.”
UK team manager Lynne Holt said: “All the athletes at the World Transplant Games have to be at their peak of physical fitness to compete, clearly illustrating the benefits of organ transplantation.
“These amazing successes show how organ donation can transform lives. We are very proud to have won the most medals at the World Transplant Games against some very stiff competition.
“But, perhaps more importantly, the games put a global spotlight on the need for organ donation. The true champions are those individuals that gave the gift of life, offering all these athletes their second chance to live.”
For more information on how to register on the NHS Organ Donor Register, visit www.organdonation.nhs.uk, or call 0300 123 23 23
For more information on Transplant Sport UK and The World Transplant Games, visit www.wtgf2011.com or www.transplantsport.org.uk