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World Transplant Games

Team diary

Saturday, August 29

All good things have to come to an end, and with great sadness we are writing our final blog. For one last time we all boarded the morning bus and headed back to the Griffith University Athletic Center for another day of track and field events before the afternoon climax, the closing ceremonies of the 17th World Transplant Games. This time it was the turn of the women and under the strong Australian sun, medals were won and records were broken.

Jessica Dorcich – GOLD ball throw 9-11 years
Laura Gaudet – BRONZE ball throw 6-8 years
Matthew Sikorski – GOLD High jump 15-17 years
Jessica Dorcich – SILVER long jump 9-11 years
Samantha Eastop – BRONZE long jump 12-14 years
Samantha Eastop GOLD ball throw 12-14 years
Mackenzie Queen SILVER ball throw 15-17 years
Margaret Benson SILVER 800 meters (adult)
Margaret Benson GOLD 200 meters (adult)
Leslie Petter GOLD 800 meters (adult)

Athletes and supporters trickled into the stadium over the course of the morning until some 1,000-plus adults and children waited for the start of the official handing over of the World Transplant Games Federation flag to Sweden, which will host the games in 2011.

In reflection it has been an incredible week. Hard to believe that so much has been achieved in such a short time.

Australia has provided an excellent venue for the WTGs, its people have been friendly and welcoming, and its scenery breath taking. There were some difficult moments -- how do you get 500 people on one bus? But over the coming months these frustrating moments will be forgotten and the true memories will remain. The memories are not only there for the athletes and supporters but for the three of us as well. Vanessa’s first games will include memories of team building and the morning yoga with the beautiful backdrop of the Pacific Ocean. For Robin, a more seasoned volunteer, it was seeing the acceptance and progression of the junior athletes as they were invited and accepted by the adults in the team events, the coming together of a unified team Canada. For me it was seeing previously sick patients, happy, healthy and totally enjoying life, fulfilling promises and goals that where set pre-transplant.

As always the games concluded with the final night gala, and the final celebration of a fantastic week of competition. The gala although formal had a casual feel as we danced the night away to live music. All of team Canada both adults and juniors joined in the memorable evening knowing that they belong to a special unique family that shares a strong bond.

So from the Canadian Juniors, Laura, Ayden, Kailyn, Chris, David, John, Jacob, Matthew, Erin, Joe, Mike, Jessica, Katie, Mackenzie, Samantha, Rebecca, Dawn, Seth, Dustin, Robbie, Ronnie, Dylen , Dale Devan and Brandon we wish you all goodbye until next time, and to all the junior athletes we want to let you know the Transplant Centre is very proud of you all....... and so are we.

Friday, August 28

Even though Team Canada has enjoyed each day of competition thus far, the anticipation of the first day of Athletics is something the entire team looks forward to. Hard to believe that we are already at Day 6 of competition, as we all boarded the morning bus and the whole team headed out to Griffith University Athletic Stadium. One of the unique aspects of Athletics is that it is the only day when all World Transplant Games athletes congregate at a single venue, and aren’t scattered at various competitions throughout the city. Griffith University Athletic Stadium provided an intimate, yet perfect, setting for the competition. Yet again, we mention, it is only the start of spring here in the southern hemisphere and the temperatures soared into the 30 degree range. The stands were absolutely packed with athletes and supporters from all countries, but the sound of the “Canadian Train” (Whooo-whooooo!) rose above the rest.

Are you ready for this? Canada took home an outstanding 20 MEDALS in the competition today, completely dominating the medal podium! The day was packed with highlights, but a few stand out in particular. Margaret Bensen, an adult member of Team Canada and double lung recipient, started the day off with an inspiring performance in the 3000m Race Walk, achieving a new World Transplant Record in this event. Our Juniors were absolute stars in their events this morning, and also achieved new World Transplant Records in the 100m dash (Chris Milliard for the 12-14 year old boys – at a lightening pace of 13.26 seconds) and Ball Throw (Seth Delguidice for the 9-11 year old boys). Early in the morning, a decision was made by the Men’s Adult Relay Team (based on the athleticism of some of our Junior team runners) to invite them to compete in the Men’s 4x100m Relay Race. They would be facing off against international teams consisting of only adult runners. Each of our three boys (John Michael Frias, Chris Milliard and Matt Sikorski) recognized the significance of this request and the responsibility it required, and the decision was fully supported by the rest of the team. As the pistol fired, the entire Canadian support team held their breath and sat on the edge of their seats. Never has the 4x100m Relay been so exciting....and although the Relay Team finished in fifth position, the commentator acknowledged the team with total respect when the Juniors held up so well against their well-trained adult competitors.

The future of the Canadian Team looks incredibly bright...below is a break-down of the medal tally for this 6th day of competition:

BRONZE – Lyne Pelletier – 3000m Race Walk
GOLD AND NEW WTG RECORD – Margaret Benson – 3000m Race Walk
SILVER – Margaret Benson – 1500m Run
SILVER – Ayden Bredin – 50m Sprint
GOLD – Seth Delguidice – 50m Sprint
GOLD AND NEW WTG RECORD – Chris Milliard – 100m Sprint
SILVER – John Michael Frias – 100m Sprint
SILVER – Katie Sutherland – 100m Sprint
SILVER – Matt Sikorski – 100m Sprint
SILVER – Marvin Meissner – Ball Throw
SILVER – Dylan Pake – Shot Put
BRONZE – Ayden Bredin – Ball Throw
GOLD AND NEW WTG RECORD – Seth Delguidice – Ball Throw
SILVER – Seth Delguidice – Long Jump
BRONZE – Chris Milliard – Long Jump
SILVER – John Michael Frias – Ball Throw
BRONZE – David Maggiori – Ball Throw
SILVER – Matt Sikorski – Ball Throw
SILVER – Matt Sikorski – Long Jump
GOLD – Ivo Babic and Mervin Chen – Table Tennis Doubles

Thursday, August 27

Forget the “World’s 10 Most Deadliest Snakes,” mate! We think that the biggest hazard here in Australia is knowing which way to look first before you cross the street! And how exactly do you safely walk around the edge of a roundabout, when you have no idea where the cars are going to get off? If you were to ask some of our travel mates about the biggest confusion they’ve experienced here, don’t be surprised if they tell you it’s simply ordering their morning cup of Joe! Who can make sense of the “flat white, long black, espresso short tall system? No one here has heard of a “double/double”, that’s for sure! These are just a few of the many lessons we are learning “down under” in Australia....and we joke, because really – how much culture shock can there be, when the closest Starbucks is a mere 5 minutes from our condominium?

And now to the heart of the matter....we are happy to report that Canada is up to 41 medals and counting! Today Team Canada was well represented at Swimming, Lawn Bowls, Golf and Table Tennis events.
Six of our Juniors headed back to the Tallebudgera Recreation Complex (where the Badminton was previously held) for the Table Tennis tournament. With our morning coffee keeping us on the alert for flying ping-pong balls, we watched the Canadians face off against strong competitors from Great Britain, New Zealand, Australia and the Netherlands. Once again, the Canadian Juniors did not disappoint. Chris Milliard brought home the Bronze medal for his age group, and both Katie Sutherland and Devan Cruickshanks brought home Silver medals after defeating the Aussies and the Brits! Jacob Kingdon-Kramer deserves honourable mention for good sportsmanship and humour, when he had us all in stitches as he stepped off the court from a challenging match against the Gold medal winner in his category, saying “That guy just creamed me!”

Other updates – just in:

Golf – Leslie Petter Silver Aubrey Goldstein Silver
Table Tennis – Ivo Babic Gold (over 70 age category) Mervin Chen Bronze

Across town at the Brisbane Aquatic Centre, the day must belong to Dustin Martin – more on that later! As with Table Tennis, Canada brought home Silver and Bronze medals. Seth Delguidice brought home the Silver medal in his age category, and Robbie Thompson brought home the Bronze. This race followed what has to be the “Gold Medal” race for the cutest three little girls you have ever seen (from Japan), who had obviously consulted each other on the mornings attire and were wearing pink swimsuits with matching pink bathing caps! In the adults, Mike Strilchuk brought home the Silver medal – this time in the 200m Individual Medley. There was also honourable mention for RJ Brack who had a strong showing in multiple races. Back to Dustin Martin...the Adult 4x50m Relay Team was down one swimmer. Much to Dustin’s surprise and delight, he was asked to join the Canadian Adult Relay Team and swim the second leg of this race. Dustin rose to the occasion with a new personal best for his leg of the race, and made Canada proud! Dustin didn’t win a Gold medal, but he sure feels like he did today. We are so proud of you, Dustin!

Look forward to lots of updates on Athletics events over the next two days...until then, over and out from the land “Down Under”.

Wednesday, August 26

Canada breaks World Transplant Games Record in swimming

Another perfect day in paradise. Why do we live in Canada again?

As the sun rose over the ocean at 5:30am, the Junior athletes prepared themselves for another day of competition. Everyone seems to have gotten the hang of the very early morning starts, and all now seem to be having a good breakfast before heading to their appropriate bus for the journey to their event.

Today the main three events were swimming, lawn bowling and the 20k cycling road race. Lightening McQueen (aka Mackenzie Queen) and Mike Mazzuocco, as well as the adult team members, dressed for speed and headed out to the road to compete. Both Mike and Mackenzie had fantastic cycling races and beat personal best times coming in at less than 53 minutes. This earned Mackenzie her second medal of the games, a silver. Mike was thrilled with his personal best time especially since he was cycling in a competitive age group – the 18-29 year old category. When asked how he felt about his result he answered “I am thrilled. This is my personal best, I am doing my best for Team Canada”. 

Unfortunately one of the main issues at these games has been the lack of structured organization at some of the main events. This was very true today at the first day of swimming. Many families as well as athletes, and our Canadian support staff were left feeling very frustrated, as they arrived at the Brisbane Aquatics Centre expecting to compete in the early morning, and ended up swimming around 3pm! However there was lots of action in the pool as Canada tried to match the great dominance (as always) of the British team. They truly are a wondrous site to observe. Canada did make its mark on the world as the following medals were won:

1) Mike Strilchuk – GOLD MEDAL AND NEW WORLD TRANSPLANT GAMES RECORD – 50m Butterfly (40-49 year old males)
2) RJ Brack – GOLD MEDAL – 50m Butterfly (20-29 year old males)
3) Jessica Dorcich – GOLD MEDAL – 50m Backstroke (9-11 year old females)
4) Mike Strilchuk – BRONZE MEDAL – 50m Backstroke (40-49 year old males)
5) RJ Brack – BRONZE MEDAL – 50m Backstroke (20-29 year old males)

Congratulations to all the swimmers who competed today, you made us proud!

Meanwhile, back in Broadbeach, the Lawn Bowls competition was held. While our Juniors did not compete in this event, we had a strong showing from the adult participants, and Shillane Labbett won the Bronze medal.
Tonight a very special event was held at Team Canada head quarters. The athletes and family members came together for a celebration of the love and support that brothers, sisters and friends provide in their transplant journey. Regardless of age, from the very young to older siblings the Junior transplant athletes were encouraged to publically acknowledge and thank their siblings for being part of their lives.

Tuesday, August 25

G’day mates! Wow – hard to believe a week has gone by since most of us boarded our flights for the “Land Down Under”....we’re even starting to speak like the locals! Today is a balmy 33 degrees with not a cloud to be seen in the sky – the perfect backdrop for one of our busiest days of competition at these Transplant Games. Team Canada participated in Cycling, Badminton, Rowing and Tennis events today, and medals were being collected faster than you can say “Crikie!”.

Let’s start off with Badminton. Twelve of our Junior athletes, as well as three adults, participated in this busy event. Kids were matched head-to-head with their competitors based on age and gender. After a particularly exciting match up between Erin Vaters and Jessica Dorcich, where Erin won by a single point, she said “Jessica moves really fast on the court, I had to smash it hard to win against her!” The two bronze medal matches with Chris Milliard and Matt Sikorski had us cheering like we’d never cheered before. The breakdown of the medal count (an impressive 8!) is listed below:

Jessica Dorcich – GOLD MEDAL – Girls 9-11 year olds
Ayden Bredin – GOLD MEDAL – Boys 6-8 year olds
Erin Vaters – GOLD MEDAL – Girls 12-14 year olds
Seth Delguidice – GOLD MEDAL – Boys 9-11 year olds
Kailyn Bredin – SILVER MEDAL – Girls 12-14 year olds
Ronald Antonroy – SILVER MEDAL – Boys 9-11 year olds
Chris Milliard – BRONZE MEDAL – Boys 12-14 year olds
Matt Sikorski – BRONZE MEDAL – Boys 15-17 year olds

In the nearby town of Runaway Bay, our junior and adult cyclists dressed in the latest aerodynamic techno gear, prepared to take their shot at the medals in the 5K Road Race. As much as we all appreciated the strong headwind, we were unsure how this was going to affect the athletes. The race started in two minute intervals, with the youngest going first. Robbie Thompson from British Columbia led the way, followed by Mackenzie Queen (who we’ve renamed “Lightning McQueen”, for all you Cars fans out there!) and Mike Mazzuocco from Saint Catherine’s, Ontario. Asking Lightning McQueen to sum up how she was feeling in three words or less, her response was “scared, nervous, and excited!” At the end of an exciting time trial, the results were in and once again Canada fared very well, with Robbie and Mackenzie winning Gold in their respective age groups. 

Dave Smith president of the CTA won a Gold Medal for Rowing, Leslie Petter won a bronze medal for Tennis, and our own John Frias also won a bronze medal for Juniors Tennis. Canada continues to be well represented in all the major events.

Now for something a little different. Imagine sitting in a paradise cove, on a beautiful warm night with a sky full of stars and a perfect yellow crescent moon, anticipating meeting your 7 new best friends. Our new best friends were 7 beautiful grey bottle nosed dolphins who where only too happy to entertain and show off for the athletes and supporters at our evening at SeaWorld. This was followed by a fantastic dinner and open park policy which allowed all guests to roam around the park for an evening of free entertainment. Our teenage athletes totally took advantage of the upside down roller coaster, even filming the whole ride for their friends who were feeling a little apprehensive about the ride. 

The SickKids transplant athletes went home to bed, feeling blessed, very happy and even a little spoiled.

Monday, August 24

Competition is well underway today, August 24th, on the second day of these 17th World Transplant Games in Gold Coast, Australia. The morning began in utter chaos, as the competitors and their support teams had a hasty breakfast and boarded early morning buses to the sporting venues. Some found this shift out of “vacation mode” quite a shock to the system, after passing a few relaxing days in the Gold Coast! But despite delays in getting special dietary needs taken care of, fitting all supporters into the available shuttle buses, or simply pausing to exchange a few more pins with fellow athletes, every adult and child arrived at their event on time.

Team Canada (both Junior and Adults) were represented at two sporting events today - 10-Pin Bowling and Indoor Volleyball. And boy, did they represent! The heat of this sunny Australian day (30 degrees and humid today, unusually warm for a “Winter’s Day”), was nothing in comparison to the heat the Canadians put on their competitors in the 10-Pin Bowling competition this morning. Our Junior Team made us so proud, as they all but dominated this event. Five medals were won in Juniors bowling, as follows:

1) John Frias – GOLD MEDAL – Boys 12-14 year olds
2) Devan Cruickshanks – GOLD MEDAL – Girls 12-14 year olds
3) Rebecca Samuels – SILVER MEDAL – Girls 15-17 year olds
4) Ronald Antonroy – BRONZE MEDAL – Boys 9-11 year olds
5) Aydan Bredin – BRONZE MEDAL – Boys 6-8 year olds

We had four Canadian team members in the Adult Bowling division. A heart-stopping showdown between Joseph Gallo (age 18 years) and his fellow competitors ended with Joe’s winning a Bronze medal – quite an accomplishment considering the number of adults in his category (age 18-29). Angela Burghart won a silver medal for 10-Pin Bowling in her first ever World Transplant Games.

Meanwhile, at the Volleyball competition, the day started with a boisterous bus ride to the Volleyball venue – Runaway Bay Leisure Centre. Team Canada rode with teams from the UK and Italy and there was much “trashtalking” heard – “Think you’re going to hold onto that title?" For those of you who remember Bangkok 2007 – Team Canada took home a gold medal in this event. There were 7 members of the Team and two of the “newbies” were from SickKids - Dawn Oldnall and Katie Sutherland. Both Dawn’s awesome serve and Katie’s ability to set up a play were welcome additions to the team this year. Of special note; Katie, at 17 years old, was the youngest player from any country at this event and she handled the responsibility well.

Ultimately, Team Canada, after taking on the UK, Finland and Italy, finished with a solid 6th place. At the end of the event, when asked about her thoughts on the day, Dawn stated “I have accomplished my goal” – she had been dreaming of being part of the Canadian volleyball team since her transplant.

For those of you keeping track, this brings the Canadian total medal count to 9 !!!!!

As we enter into Day 3 of the Games, you can look forward to reports on Cycling, Tennis, Rowing and Badminton.

Sunday, August 23

First full day of the games and boy has it been full! The day started with breakfast at 6am, followed by the Women’s 3 km run at 7:30am and the Men’s 5 km run at 8:30am. We are proud to say that Canada has already earned 2 medals – Gold by Cliff Tam of Mississauga, Ontario in the Men’s 5K, and Silver by Margaret Benson of North Vancouver, British Columbia in the Women’s 3K. Margaret’s time of 15:55 was a new personal best for her. Cliff, who is a seasoned triathlete, stated last night “I’m used to the slow, steady pace of the Iron Man...so I’m afraid for the race tomorrow...I can’t handle 5 km pain!!” Obviously, he could handle it very well, and he gave all the spectators a thrill with his final sprint to the finish! Cliff is also a “SickKids graduate”, as he received his liver transplant at SickKids in the early 1990’s.

The excitement of the morning races was complimented by a 4 km Donate Life Beach Walk n’ Talk, where teams from all over the world walked the Gold Coast to promote organ donation (along with some of the largest beach balls you’ve ever seen!). The Beach Walk started out at 8:30 am, with clear blue skies overhead, the ocean waves at our feet, and a balmy 27 degrees – not bad for a winter’s day!

If months of training weren’t enough, our Canadian Junior Team had an additional event to prepare themselves for the Opening Ceremonies – a “Kids Only” tattoo party in which they were covered head to toe in Canadian paraphernalia and patriotic flag tattoos. All of the kids had a great time, and new friendships are blossoming every day.

The Canadian Team created quite a spectacle as we walked through the streets of Broadbeach in a sea of red and white on our way to the Opening Ceremonies. Supporters of all nations gathered at the stadium, and excitement built as the fans awaited the start of the Opening Ceremonies and the entrance of athletes from 45 nations. The crowd erupted as a voice announced the entrance of the first country, Argentina. This was shortly followed by Team Canada, who entered the arena to thunderous applause and cheers. One Australian spectator at the ceremonies was heard to say, “Is there anyone left in Canada?” For some parents and supporters, it was overwhelming, and pride and emotion brought tears to their eyes. Even though the Opening Ceremonies were in excess of 3 hours, there were many memorable highlights; namely, Miriam – a 10 year old girl and liver recipient – who welcomed everyone to the Games and had a special message for the kids: “You may find yourself different in your school, but here you are just like everyone else”. The motivational key note address was given by Chris Klug, an Olympic snowboarder from Colorado, who inspired us all with his story of determination to succeed following his liver transplant. He promised us we would see his name at the upcoming 2010 Vancouver Olympics. The Canadians let him know how exciting that was, as the volume rose again. The evening ended with a lovely, “intimate” BBQ dinner for 2000 people, and the kids are looking forward to starting their competitions tomorrow.

Saturday, August 22

For many of us our journey began on August 18th, while others arrived before and after, but Team Canada is finally together and is eagerly anticipating the opening of these Games. Team Canada is housed in the beautiful condominium “Carmel-by-the-Sea”. These condo units are little apartments for athletes to call home, steps away from the beach, and with a warm and welcoming staff who have gone above and beyond to ensure our stay is wonderful. Never has a “winter’s” day been so warm and inviting!

The flight and transfers took approximately 26 hours for most of us, which the children seemed to handle miraculously better than the adults! We have shifted forward 14 hours (some faster than others), and are now officially living on “Australian Time”. Despite our struggles to sleep on this new schedule, being awake at 4:00am has its advantages – and we have seen a few fantastic sunrises over the Gold Coast at 5:30am!

Junior Team Canada’s Saturday morning started with a wonderful sunrise yoga session on the beach. The whole team and their supporters joined Robin and Vanessa (Team SickKids physiotherapists) for 30 minutes of stretching and strengthening to prepare for the upcoming week of competition. This was followed by the official Welcome of the entire Canadian team, hosted by Rosie McHugh, Team Manager. Saturday night will see us at the opening dinner, in preparation for the opening ceremonies tomorrow.

Special Events so Far:

  • Dale Sinclair of Junior Team Canada celebrates his 12th birthday today (August 22nd)
  • RJ Brack of Team Canada is newly engaged to his beautiful fiancée, Sasha, after proposing to her at sunrise on the beach in Broadbeach.