|Watching his teammate Joszef Hruska
play a pretty fierce round of table tennis (on his way to the
semi-finals) was Czech team manager Tomas Drevikovsky. Tomas
spoke with us about his life since getting a transplant, and
about his experiences with the Transplant Games.
Tomas' first and second kidney transplants failed, but his
third is working well. All told, he spent eight years on the
waiting list. A mechanical engineer, originall, after the
last transplant, he became a translator for a legal firm in
Prague. His company sponsored the Czech team's travel to Utah
for the 1999 Winter World Transplant Games. Then, in part
because of seeing TransWeb's coverage of the event on the
Internet, the firm gave the summer Transplant Games team more
sponsorship to come to Budapest. We at TransWeb are quite
pleased to have made a difference to the Czech team!
A member of the kidney transplant organization "Association
of the Allies of Transplant Patients," which was formed
in 1989 and has about 1,500 members. Tomas told me that there
are no Czech national games and that there aren't comparable
national organizations for other organs. After the fall of
the Iron Curtain in 1989, it became possible for the Czechs
to participate in international events. Tomas himself came
to Budapest for the 1991 World Transplant Games, participating
Tomas' message to the world about donation is: "People
should not be afraid to donate when they die, and to help
people who are waiting. When you are dead, you don't need
your organs, but others with fatal diseases could live. It's
funny, when there are polls, many people are willing to accept
any organ. But when you ask them, if they would be a donor,
they say they don't know. To be a recipient, everyone agrees.
But to be a donor, it's problematic for them."
The Griff Squash and Fitness Center is a spacious new building
attached to the Hotel Griff. Several miles from the Danube on the
Buda side of Budapest, the Squash venue for these Transplant Games
was wonderful. Outside, yellow commuter trains amble down the center
of a bumpy street whose tired cobblestones have stood for generations.
The ever-present smell of diesel exhaust mingling with cigarette
smoke combines with the noise of two-cycle engines to complete the
setting of a standard Budapest street scene.
Inside the Griff the setting is drastically different. Marble columns
reach skyward from the playing level which is easily viewed through
glass walls both on the main floor and the loft above for spectators.
Workout and weight equipment seem to get constant use on the upper
level where the laughter and muscular effort of young people mix
on the balcony overlooking the squash courts.
|Beginning with a field of dozens of competitors the
elimination squash tournament began. Favored in the mens division
was Ludovic Le Breton from France. A squash instructor who owns his
own squash club, Le Breton was confident from the start. "It was easy,"
Le Breton said with a wink following the semifinals. In the senior
men's division Team Great Britain's Peter Kramer (left, in photo at
right) and Amarjit "Ami" Sehmbi were set to do battle for the gold.
Kramer, 51, took the bronze in Sydney where the TransWeb webcast team
met him at the tennis venue. Kramer's liver transplant over four years
ago has given him a new lease on life. A self-employed retail salesman,
Kramer said "I was playing squash right up until my transplant in
April '95 and was back on court eight weeks afterwards." Kramer, who
normally competes in the veterans division, was forced to drop down
to the seniors due to a lack of veterans in Budapest.
"I was playing squash right up until my transplant
in April '95 and was back on court eight weeks afterwards."
|In preparation for the finals, lights were dimmed in
all of the other courts in the building and crowd grew to around a
hundred people watching the every move of the competitors. There were
officials, video crews, teammates and passers-by crowding the floor
level. Laughing and cheering, local kids, teammates and photographers
leaned over the balcony railing to revel in the competition. The winner
would take the best of three games, using American scoring. In the
women's division, Eilleen Moxley of Team Great Britain handily took
the gold. The silver medal was issued to Martina Schmidt (in photo
at right) of Germany. TransWeb last met Martina in Sydney and she
is thrilled to be here in Budapest. In the first game of the men's
senior division final, Ami came out strong quickly reaching 6-0. Kramer
then rallied for 5 points to Ami's 7. Ami then came back strong to
win the first game at 15-8. The second game began even through 6 points
before Ami went ahead to win 15-5.
|In the men's division, Australia's Darryl Frankham and
France's Le Breton struck out with the smiles and comaraderie which
are so pervasive at these Games. Le Breton's quiet confidence turned
quickly to a combination of fierce competition and a clear love of
the game. Le Breton, quickly reaching 11-3, began to relax and really
work the crowd. His infectious smile thrilled the spectators as he
hit an absolutely unreachable shot and then pointed out the ball as
if to say "why don't you hit that ball way over there" to Frankham
as it flew by to win the point for Le Breton. "You think you hit a
winner and then he just picks it up with ease," said Frankham after
the first game. In the second game, Le Breton charged ahead to 5-0.
The Aussie, pleased with the demonstration he was being given, smiled
at the artistic playing of Le Breton. The Frenchman found himself
gently pushing the Aussie aside in order to reach a shot. A rousing
cheer went up each time Frankham scored. Le Breton went ahead to win
15-5 to take the gold home to France.
"This gold medal is for my Dad..."
The medal presentation was inside the Griff. Shouts and cheers
echoed through the building as the winning countries' flags slowly
raised to the strains of anthems through the loudspeakers. Hugging
one another, winners and losers alike congratulated one another
on attendance, athletic success and life. After receiving his gold
medal, Ami of Great Britain stopped for a moment while he had the
attention of the crowd. "This gold medal is for my Dad. He taught
me how to play this game and died just two months ago. I am really
happy but I'm a little sad, too." More hugs, cheers and good wishes
filled the room again.
These Transplant Games bring out the best in all of us, wherever