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World Transplant Games: Celebration of life and sport

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Keiran Sullivan

On the 3 May 2018 I was fortunate enough to have one of my closest friends, Patricia Watts, give me the gift of life. She donated one of her kidneys to me.

At the time of this wonderful gift, I was suffering from a degenerative disease known as Polycystic Kidney Disease — a disease that doesn’t discriminate and attacks the functionality of both kidneys at the same time, reducing their function until they eventually fail.

Whilst recovering from this life-giving surgery, I was introduced to a lady who had competed for Australia at the World Transplant Games. After some initial enquiries and checking my eligibility, I was chosen as one of 62 athletes to represent Australia at the 2019 Summer World Transplant Games in Newcastle, United Kingdom.

The World Transplant Games Federation is recognised as an International Olympic Committee organisation, and there are some very professional athletes — most like myself are amateur.

I was honoured to be selected to complete and represent Australia as a part of the cycling and petanque teams. Receiving my Australian blazer at the presentation ceremony in July was an unbelievable experience and a surreal moment.

With the games due to take place from the 17-23 August, despite my training, they were coming very quickly. I was competing in four events: the petanque mens’ singles, cycling individual time trial, men’s team time trial and the men’s road race.

With over 2,500 athletes from around sixty countries in attendance, the opening ceremony and athletes’ parade into the stadium felt much like a huge party. There was not much time to relax and enjoy as my events were on days one to three of the games.

Day one saw me compete in the petanque with my pool matches against opponents from Thailand, Iran and France. With an early loss to Thailand and a win against Iran, I needed a win against France to progress into the finals. Unfortunately I lost 13-12 and missed the final 16 cut to finish 20th out of 30.

Day two was the individual and team time trial events. Competition was certainly tough, especially from the European riders — many of whom were very experienced and had previously ridden on the competitive European circuits.

We didn’t win any team or individual medals but we certainly gave our all as individuals and as a team. I managed to end up 23rd out of a field of 27 in the individual time trial.

My final day of competition was day three and the road race. Again, a tough field of competitors took to the circuit which was dominated by the European riders.

In a race that included a gruelling climb I finished 18th out of the field of 24 and managed to be the first of the Australians across the line.

With my events out of the way, it was time to relax, do some sightseeing and cheer on the rest of the Australian team. The Australian team ended up 9th on the medal tally, a tremendous effort given the size of our team.

Overall it was an extraordinary experience and one that I feel very privileged and honoured to have been a part of.
The feeling of wearing green and gold and representing your country is unbelievable and very humbling. All possible from the love of a great friend who has given me the gift of life!

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