Eight Eastern Cape athletes have put themselves in the running for the South African squad during the 14th National Transplant Games held in Gqeberha recently.
The annual event, supported by SPAR Eastern Cape, saw athletes from around the country striving for recognition in order to qualify for the World Transplant Games in Australia next year.
After two days of competition, a group of top performers were selected to go through to the next stage of the qualification process. From them, the national squad will be selected and begin training for the Perth Games.
Dean Arnolds (400m; petanque), Susan Burri (5km; 3km walk; 800m; table tennis), Paul de Villiers (golf), Robyn Emslie (darts; bowls; petanque) and Carlo Prince (darts; petanque) have all met the qualifying criteria in their respective disciplines.
Those who have met some of the criteria are Dee Tyeku (discus; still to qualify for shot put), Heilie Uys (discus; shot put; ball throw; still to qualify for javelin and golf) and Mpumelelo Damane (petanque; still to qualify for 400m and long jump).
Local organising committee chairperson Willie Uys said the event, hosted by the South African Transplant Sports Association (Satsa) in collaboration with Nelson Mandela University’s faculty of health sciences, had been a resounding success.
“What a celebration of life we experienced,” he said. “One of the highlights was the athletics meeting at the Madibaz Stadium.
“What was outstanding was the warm spirit of support from the spectators, who lifted their voices in song and celebration.”
Uys said all athletes were rewarded with participation medals at the gala evening on the Saturday.
“It was clear that new athletes and their families, who arrived on Thursday, became friends and ‘family’ members during the three days of celebration.”
He added that there were several outstanding performances by EC athletes.
Dean Arnolds set a South African record in the 400m in the men’s 18 to 29 age group while Susan Burri notched up national records in the 800m and 5km road race for women aged 60 to 69.
Dee Tyeku had an SA best in the discus in the 40 to 49 age category for women and Heilie Uys achieved world record distances in the discus, shot put and ball throw for women in the 70 to 79 category.
“However, the world record marks are not recognised as these can only be set at the World Transplant Games held every two years,” explained Uys.
He said the occasion was also used to raise awareness of organ donation and transplantation.
A walk, jointly hosted by Satsa and the Organ Donor Foundation and including the Kidney Awareness Network and Vitanova SA, took place on the Friday afternoon along the beachfront to drive the message home.
Athletes, their supporters and the public took part in the 2km event.