Shropshire Rider to Captain Transplant Games Cycling Team
Richard Smith, age 42, (pictured right) has been selected to represent the UK in the World Transplant Games, celebrating the gift of life. The Bridgnorth, Shropshire resident will be battling for medals in the cycling events, on the Australian Gold Coast from the 22nd-30th August 2009. Richard, who will captain the cycling team, will be one of over 1000 transplant recipients taking part to raise awareness both here in the UK and internationally, of the need for organ donors, and to celebrate their second chance at life. Athletes were selected following their outstanding performances at the recent British Transplant Games in Sheffield in August 2008 were Richard won gold medals in both the road race and the time trial events, retaining the British title he has held since 1999.
Richard, a 3rd Cat road racer, is a long-term member of Wrekinsport cycling club competing regularly in events around Shropshire. He has represented the United Kingdom on four previous occasions in Hungary (1999), Japan (2001), France (2003) and, most recently, Thailand in 2007. He is the current World Champion in his age group in both the time trial and the road race.
The UK cycling team travelling to Australia will consist of 8 people (7 men and 1 woman) who have had a variety of life saving transplant including liver, kidney and bone marrow. The team includes Zoe Dixon, a multi medal winning cyclist, who was awarded an MBE this year to recognise her services to sport
Richard had a life saving liver transplant over 16 years ago at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham after a very short and acute illness, going into hospital in a coma and being given 48 hours to live. Without this life saving operation he wouldn't be competing in Australia. "Being asked to represent your Country is a huge honour, to be a captain within the team even more so. The Games have played an important role in helping me live a full and active life giving me an important target, following my successful transplant," explains Richard. "This event is highly competitive but is also a vital part of the rehabilitation process and gives all competitors a focus, as well being a place to celebrate the gift of life and an opportunity to thank our donors and their families. The whole team is looking forward to the buzz and excitement on The Gold Coast, where we plan to bring back a host of gold medals inspired by British success in the Tour de France and the Olympic Games."
Supported by the International Olympic Committee, the World Transplant Games, which is held every two years, represent the largest organ donor awareness event in the world, featuring a nine day series of sporting events. The UK Team of 150 athletes will join over 1000 others from some 55 countries across the globe, all of whom have undergone an organ transplant. In 2007 the team returned home from the World Games in Bangkok, Thailand, triumphant, boasting a total of 293 medals and claiming the overall winning title for the 16th World Transplant Games. Expectation of retaining its title is high for the UK team in 2009.
Lynne Holt, UK Team Manager for the 2009 World Transplant Games, concludes, "The World Transplant Games aims to raise awareness of the ongoing need for organ donation, demonstrate the benfits to health and fitness following transplantation and encourage people to sign the organ donor register. By staging these events people see the direct benefits of organ donation as they witness these amazing athletes triumph over life-threatening conditions. The competitors are truly inspiring. They have already won the race to live, but are now celebrating being alive to race."