Ellen awarded outstanding female junior athlete at Transplant Games

Ellen is off on a trip of a lifetime to Argentina to compete in the World Transplant games. This is her story so far….

I have just returned from a once in a lifetime trip to Argentina to compete as part of Team GB at the World Transplant Games. This is my blog about my trip…..


Argentina as a country was a different cultural experience for me; seeing the way people lived was an eye opener, there were some rich parts and some not so rich parts. What surprised me the most was the amount of stray dogs about! We had to watch our step for dog poo!

The plane journey to Argentina took 14 hours! That the longest I’ve been on a plane before but we were equipped with a blanket and headphones although the chairs weren’t that comfy! As it was such a long flight I managed to watch 3 films (with sleep in-between). Once we arrived at Buenos Aires we took a coach to Mar del Plata which was where the games would be held and this was another 6 hours’ drive! Let’s just say we were really tired by the end of it!

We arrived in Mar del Plata in the afternoon. The hotel was amazing, so grand and huge! I think it was built a long time ago. The rooms looked like mini apartments. After a few hours rest we had a meal out with the team; it was lovely to meet with everyone in different sports and have a chat.

On the second day we registered ourselves for our sports, and got to meet and talk to people from other countries. There were 44 countries at the games with over 1,000 participants aged from 5-90! All athletes have received a life-saving organ or bone marrow transplant at some point, some people have even had 2 or 3 transplants! It was so amazing to hear other peoples stories and how they had got fit enough to compete.

During our spare time the junior team went down to the beach which was next to the hotel and we played football (trying not to injure ourselves before our events lol). It was really fun but football isn’t my best sport to be honest hahahaha!

Over the next few days I had training meets with the team GB swimmers. Not to be a ‘pool snob’ or anything, but the first pool we swam in wasn’t up to the standards of British pools but, at the end of the day, a pool’s a pool. It felt good to stretch and have a swim after the long journey we had!

On the Wednesday it was swimming competition day and I was so nervous! In the morning I ‘carbed’ up with lots of bread and cake and then had a swim team stretch session just to loosen things up and stay calm which was led by our swim coach Jeremy.

When we got to the competition pool we got into our swimming suits which take AGES to get on as they are the SPEEDO fast skin suits, the ones that the professionals wear! You have to try and squeeze everything in to the really tight suit which is difficult but actually quite amusing. We had to get them on in plenty of time! SPEEDO provided us with these suits along with our super snazzy team GB swim caps (they had our names on them!).

Stepping up to the blocks for my first race was scary, my heart was going 1000 mph, but knowing I was swimming with some of my team mates calmed me down a wee bit! On this first day of swimming I competed in 50m and 100m backstroke races and managed to win GOLD medals for both.  I also took part in the freestyle team relay which was my favorite race as I broke my personal best at 35 seconds (even though I belly flopped during the dive!)

There were two GB teams in the relay, I was in team B we won a silver but didn’t receive a medal as team A won gold and it was one medal per country. Team A swam amazingly!!!. The men’s GB relay team even received a world record!

Other members of the team & I got to wear the swim cap of a lovely lady called Janet who used to be the Team GB swimming manager. She had died shortly before the games and everyone in transplant swimming and team GB knew her and loved her dearly. It was an honor to wear her cap and a lovely tribute.

On the second day of swimming I managed to win GOLD medals in the 50m freestyle, 50m breaststroke, 100m freestyle and medley relay races. Being up on the podium holding the great British flag, sometimes alongside my team mates, made me realise how lucky I am to be healthy and well enough to compete in these games and appreciate the opportunity my donor gave me and all of the other donors gave their competitors too.

The swim team achieved 60 golds, 21 silvers and 7 bronze. Team GB did amazingly in every sport as well as swimming. Over all we achieved 86 golds, 44 silvers and 26 bronzes with an overall total of 156; it’s safe to say that we topped the medal table! 

Family and friends in the UK were able to watch the events on an online feed and each day was dedicated to an event. This was good as family and friends who couldn’t come due to the distance and cost could watch and feel as if they were there.

On the Friday it was a rest day as all of the sports had finished so my dad and I went on a city tour of Mar del Plata, which was lovely. We went to a water tour which is famous in Argentina and harbor, which was lovely, I felt very touristy! (I even bought a fridge magnet……).

On the Saturday it was gala dinner night and we got all dressed and had a sit down meal. Speeches were made along with an awards ceremony. We were also introduced to the mayor of Malaga which is where the next World Transplant Games ….we are all already excited about Malaga 2017!!!

That night, to my surprise, I was awarded outstanding female junior athlete for the medals I won in the swimming pool! I was shocked as I did not expect to win it! I was given the award by Olivier, president of the world transplant games committee. Another team GB member Declan, won the male outstanding junior award.

It was an honor to compete next to such inspirational people both in Team GB and countries from all around the world. Everyone was so nice, friendly and caring. Lots of athletes travelled with friends and family who came to offer support and encouragement for us all, some of these people were organ donors for their loved ones which is such a selfless thing to have done.

The main aim of these games are to spread awareness of how organ donation can save and improve lives of recipients. I hope I have helped to do this. Competing at the games has made me realise how little organ donation is promoted in the UK and around the world; more needs to be done as there are 6908 people currently waiting for an organ in the UK. Become an organ donation and save lives. You can register at www.organdonation.nhs.uk

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Author: Ellen russ

Date: 25/09/2015

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