August 29, 2007
by Andrew Raeburn
A star swimmer who has had four kidney transplants is in Thailand this week hoping to prove he is the best in the world.
Michael Gates, 23, from Princess Street, Seaford, is competing in his second World Transplant Games in Bangkok aiming to emulate his impressive performances at the British Transplant Games last month.
He won gold in the 50m backstroke and bronze in the 50m breaststroke in Edinburgh and now takes on the best in the world in those events.
Michael, who finished just outside the medals in Canada two years ago, will be one of more than 1,000 transplant recipients taking part in Bangkok to raise awareness of the need for organ donors and to celebrate their second chance at life.
Michael had his first transplant aged just 14 months, although the kidney was rejected.
Over the next five years, he had to endure more than 70 operations, including three more transplants, before a perfect match was found.
He originally started swimming to strengthen his left lung after it collapsed.
Now, after winning medals both in the UK and Australia, Michael will hoping to challenge in Thailand.
He said, "This event is a vital part of the rehabilitation process and gives all competitors a focus.
"It is also 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 in Bangkok, where we will try to bring back a host of gold medals."
Supported by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the World Transplant Games, held every two years, is the largest organ donor awareness event in the world, featuring a nine-day series of sporting events.
The UK team of 125 athletes will join more than 1,000 others from 55 countries, all of whom have undergone an organ transplant.
In 2005 the UK squad returned home from the 15th World Transplant Games in Ontario, Canada, boasting a total of 199 medals and claiming the overall title. (View photos of the Canadian games at Canada 2005.)
Lynne Holt, UK team manager for the 2007 games, said, "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."
The World Transplant Games began on Saturday (August 25) and run until Sunday (September 2).
For more information on the World Transplant Games please visit the Games website.
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