Belfast Telegraph

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Record breaking Orla helps athletes bring home gold

Published 30/06/2011

Norther Ireland athletes have brought home a staggering number of medals from the World Transplant Games held in Sweden last week.

They contributed to the overwhelming success of the UK team, which secured a total of 286 medals, putting them in first place ahead of America.

Orla Smyth from east Belfast topped the list, bringing home no fewer than six gold medals in her discipline, athletics.

Orla, who received a kidney transplant in 2007, came first in the 200m, 400m, 800m, 1500m, 3k road race and 4x4 women’s relay.

Speaking on her return, she said: “I was delighted, there were representatives from over 50 countries, so I knew there would be a lot of competition. I trained very hard all year in preparation, and ran the marathon in April.

“I was fortunate enough that it all came together, and I am now even the current record holder on the 800m and 1500m.

“These were my first World Transplant Games. I was so excited to be able to compete. There was a fantastic atmosphere, and you meet so many people.”

Orla says that these games are important to show the difference organ donation can make to people’s lives. She had been an avid football player until her illness forced her to stop, and it was because of her kidney transplant that she was able to take up running three years ago, leading to her amazing success last week.

Other athletes from Belfast were Geoffrey McCracken, with one gold, one silver and one bronze in swimming, and Andrew Weir, who competed in the Golf event.

Each of the athletes, who have all received a transplant in some point in their lives will also be taking part in the Westfield Health British Transplant Games which takes place in Belfast from August 4 to 7.

The event exists to encourage people who have received a transplant to lead an active and healthy life while showcasing the benefits of transplantation and encouraging people to sign onto the Organ Donor Register.

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