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Exclusive: 14 organ transplant athletes make India proud at World Transplant Games with no support from Sports Ministry

New Delhi, Sep 24: A group of 14 men and women from India participated at the World Transplant Games 2019 at Newcastle, Gateshead in the United Kingdom and returned with 4 gold and 3 silver medals. The overall team position cannot be ascertained since World Transplant Game Federation (WTGF) has not yet added medal tally of donor participants to the final list. However, all the athletes are upbeat with their performance and the experiences they had at the global event.

These 14 participants (11 organ recipients and 3 donors) were not able to participate in sports like football or volleyball since more number of participants from the country are required to participate in the same.

As transplant games or athletes aren't recognised by the sports ministry or the Sports Authority of India (SAI), the participants have to fend for themselves and/or some NGOs for financial and moral support.

In spite of several hardships, these brave men and women aren't disheartened and making their presence felt at the big stage. The journey of these extraordinary men and women as been incredible and they could be a role model for thousands of people who've given up hope to pursue their dreams after going through a transplant.

Ankita Shrivastava, a liver donor from Bhopal, won Gold Medal in Long Jump and Ball Throw and Silver Medal in 100m race. She was the best performing athlete from India at the event. Vishnu Nair who participated in 5000m racewalk finished fourth in the race but seemed satisfied with his effort.

Other medal winners were Arjun Srivatsa, Balveer Singh and Digvijay Singh Gujral also won medals at the event. Balveer Singh from Uttar Pradesh, who won silver in Badminton. Balveer Singh had also participated in 2 previous World Transplant Games in 2015 and 2017 and had won a gold medal in the previous edition. Digvijay Singh Gujral, who hails from Madhya Pradesh, won a silver medal in Squash.

Mykhel had a chat with a few of these transplant athletes who shared their experiences at WTG in the UK, what are their plans for the future and the request they have for the sports ministry.

Here are the excerpts:

Mykhel: What do you have to say about your achievement and what are your plans from here on?

Ankita: I am the 1st Indian to win 3 medals at the World Transplant Games. I was the youngest participant in the 14 member team of India and won 3 of the 6 medals won by India. I won 2 Golds in Long Jump and Ball Throw and 1 Silver in 100 m sprint. My performance was the best so far and the experience was exuberant. With 59 countries participating and the level of athletes being at the peak I am very happy with my performance.

In future, I plan to promote Sports, Health and Organ Donation across different platforms.

Ankita Shrivastava

MK: How did you fare at the event?

Vishnu Nair: I participated in 5000m racewalk and finished at 4th place.

(Before the start of WTG, Vishnu spoke to Mykhel about his journey. Read the story here)

MK: What all did you and the team learn from event in terms of your preparations and about the areas you need to improve?

VN: The participants in the team prepared and trained individually on their own since there was no government or federation support vis-à-vis other countries. This was first international games experience for most of the participants from India and the team manager Ms Reena Raju (a two-time heart transplant recipient) did a commendable job in getting 14 participants from India to represent the country at the World Transplant Games. We need to have a proper Federation at the national level like other countries.

Most counties were adequately sponsored through their respective national transplant federation/associations, but the participants from India had to bear their expenses. Though, the team manager Ms Reena Raju and her NGO - Light a Life foundation tried her best to get part-sponsorship for 4 participants but most of the participants were bearing their expenses to participate in the World Transplant Games. Since we were just a team of 14 (11 organ recipients and 3 donors), we were not able to participate in sports like football or volleyball since more number of participants from the country are required to participate in the same.

MK: How supporting were the athletes from the other countries? how did they help you?

VN: The athletes from other countries were very competitive on the field but were very friendly and supportive across the finish line. Athletes from other countries were cheering and encouraging fellow participants to give their best. Not just athletes, even the supporting crowd were encouraging all the participants equally.

MK: Did the administration here felicitated you or recognized your contribution?

VN: No. There was not even a word of support or encouragement.

MK: What is your message to the Sports Ministry?

VN: I would urge the sports ministry to initiate state level and national level transplant games in India. This will not only showcase fitness post organ transplantation but also promote the noble cause of organ donation. The World Transplant Games Federation is officially recognized by the International Olympic Committee.

MK: What are your plans for the next event? When is it happening?

VN: My immediate plans are now to participate in National Transplant Games to be held in Mumbai on 30th November 2019 which will be organised by Narmada Kidney Foundation. The Next event of World Transplant Games will be held in 2021. This time I participated in only one event as I underwent cochlear implant surgery this year, so did not want to strain much. I hope to participate in more events in the next edition if I get a chance. Hopefully, the Sports Authority of India will consider forming a federation or association to encourage transplant sports soon.

Anil Srivatsa: Dr Arjun Srivatsa is a neurosurgeon and a Kidney Transplant recipient whose younger brother Anil donated him a kidney in 2015. Arjun won a gold medal in golf. Anil - Arjun's brother - went on to win gold in ball throwing in the donor category. Anil says the "victory underlined their fight and will to succeed" and adds that he feels proud to see his brother do well after the transplant.

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Story first published: Tuesday, September 24, 2019, 15:20 [IST]
Other articles published on Sep 24, 2019
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