Impressive Haul for South Africans at World Transplant Games

Words & Photos: Stuart Pickering

The 19th World Transplant Games, held in Durban, came to a close on Sunday, 4 August 2013, and has been hailed as a resounding success by the athletes and organisers. Final numbers showed that more than 2,000 athletes from 50 countries attended. Teams from Great Britain, Argentina, Hong Kong, Sweden, Australia, and Holland, to name just a few, travelled to South Africa.

A lavish and moving opening ceremony was held in a full and lively ICC Durban arena, attended by all the athletes, friends, family members, and a lot of local school children, who thoroughly enjoyed themselves watching their SA idols winner perform on stage.

To be able to participate, athletes must have had one of five life-saving transplants, namely heart, lung, liver kidney or bone marrow. The event was very well organised, with a massive medical backup for these athletes, as you would expect.

As with all the Games' events, participants are categorised by age, with seven different groups for both the men and women. To detail all the winners would be too much, but more than 500 athletes took part in the 13 different sports codes, which included track and field events, as well as long and high jump, shot putt, javelin, and the full mix of running races.

Overall, the standard was very high and also, as we saw in last year’s Paralympics, what some of the athletes’ lacked in ability was more than made up for with pure grit and determination to do their absolute best. Over 50 Transplant Games records were broken at the two-day athletics.

South Africa’s Hellie Uys was awarded for being the 'The Most Outstanding Female Athlete', and Team South Africa finished in third position in the final medal count. The overall winners were Team Great Britain and Northern Ireland, who competed as one team.

Top five teams:

Great Britain and Northern Ireland:
MEDAL COUNT: 114 gold, 74 silver, 47 bronze

MEDAL COUNT: 42 gold, 32 silver, 27 bronze

South Africa:
MEDAL COUNT: 37 gold, 32 silver, 27 bronze

MEDAL COUNT: 37 gold, 19 silver, 21 bronze

MEDAL COUNT: 25 gold, 15 silver, 12 bronze

It is incredibly sad that this event received so little coverage, except for a few local papers and websites, and this is a great shame as the effort put in by these athletes and their love of life is overwhelming and truly inspirational.

Roll on 2015, where the next World Transplant Games will take place in Mar del Plata, Argentina!

Fast fact:

At the 2011 competition in Gothenburg, Sweden, 47 South Africans participated, winning 17 gold, 17 silver, and 14 bronze medals. Four South Africans currently hold World Transplant Games world records.

The World Transplant Games are a celebration of the human spirit, giving individuals with previously life-threatening illnesses, the chance to compete in a high-level sports event and prove that they can not only lead normal, fulfilling lives, but push the boundaries of their physical endurance. For more information on the World Transplant Games, visit

And remember to think about becoming an organ donor yourself. Each donor can save up to another seven people’s lives! For more information on becoming an organ donor, visit