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 (opens in new tab), UK digital edition (opens in new tab). And if you like us, rate us!
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Richard Abraham is an award-winning writer, based in New Zealand. He has reported from major sporting events including the Tour de France and Olympic Games, and is also a part-time travel guide who has delivered luxury cycle tours and events across Europe. In 2019 he was awarded Writer of the Year at the PPA Awards.
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