Great Britain’s cyclists are now world renowned for their Olympic and Paralympic prowess, but there is another discipline where riders from the UK are top of the medal table: the World Transplant Games.

The most recent edition of the biennial competition was held between July 28 and August 4 this year in Durban, South Africa, where a 13 strong squad of British cyclists took 19 medals, nine of them gold, to finish top of the cycling medal table. 

Each competitor in Durban was a recipient of a liver, heart, lung or bone marrow transplant. Diana Higman, who won gold in the 50-59 age category in the 20km road race after having undergone a liver transplant in 2008, explained that the goal of the event is to raise awareness of organ donation.

Riders line up for the 20km road race

“People say I’m an inspiration but I don’t think I’m an inspiration, I’m just doing what I feel I should be doing,” she told Cycling Weekly. “If you can save a life by helping to get people registered then that’s the main aim of the Games. I’d like to think that my donor would be proud with what I’ve achieved through her donating her liver to me.”

Each participant fundraised to meet the costs of travelling out to the Games of around £2,000 and had to provide a medical certificate in order to compete. Higman held a masquerade ball and raised money with the help of her cycling club, Derby Mercury.

Diana Higman en route to gold

Higman explained that the biggest limit to the participants’ athletic capabilities is the ongoing course of anti-rejection drugs that almost all of them are taking simply to stay alive.

“We just laugh about it,” she said. “We say we’re the only cyclists that can get away with taking tablets!”

This article was first published in the August 22 issue of Cycling Weekly. Read Cycling Weekly magazine on the day of release where ever you are in the world International digital edition, UK digital edition. And if you like us, rate us!

  • Geoff Waters, Durban, South Africa

    I attended both the time trial and road race of the Transplant Games in Durban in Aug 2013 as an ordinary spectator. I was deeply impressed by all the competitors in the face of huge personal challenges. They presented a memorable spectacle. At the TT start, I saw the Brits warming up on rollers under a shade tent – very professional. The Italians had beautiful machines – Wilier, Dedaccaciai, Bianchi – state of the art stuff. National kit was strongly in evidence – Norway, Sweden, France, Canada, USA … and proudly worn. I spoke with a young woman from Namibia who had received a kidney transplant. I thank them all for the examples of personal courage which they set. Forza! Allez!