Hungary goes for Gold!

Receiving the diagnosis of chronic kidney disease is life-changing. But it doesn’t have to change everything about your life. For the 9th year running, athletes, who also happen to be transplant recipients and dialysis patients, gathered together at the European Transplant and Dialysis Sports Championship to pursue their passions. At the 2016 games, Hungarian athletes in particular showed their outstanding talent, despite the challenging fates they have faced.  

For one week in mid-July of summer 2016, the town of Vantaa, Finland was filled to the brim. Athletes from throughout Europe poured into the country’s fourth largest city to compete for the championship titles at the European Transplant and Dialysis Sports Championship. But, like every year, one aspect set these games apart from the rest: only kidney, liver, heart, lung, pancreas and bone marrow transplant recipients, and dialysis patients were allowed to participate.

Choose your discipline

Just like the Olympics or Paralympics, athletes at the European Transplant and Dialysis Sports Championship compete in a wide range of sports, both in teams and individually. The disciplines include: volleyball, badminton, tennis, table tennis, cycling, pétanque, swimming, darts, golf, virtual triathlon, mini-marathon and athletics. At the games, participants aged 18 and above compete against others in their age group. Each year, the oldest athletes have already celebrated their 70th birthdays!

Hats off to Hungary

Hungarian athletes at the 2016 competition attracted everyone’s attention with their exceptional performances. In total, they brought home 95 medals, broken down as follows: 35 gold, 32 silver and 28 bronze. Overall, Hungary ranked second, beaten only by the host country, Finland, whose total medal count was 104. The third placed country, Great Britain, clocked in with 64 medals.  

In the closing ceremony of the games, the best male and female athletes in the categories of transplant and dialysis patient were also crowned. Once again, Hungary shined brightly, with Hungarian dialysis patient, Fanni Kisbakonyi taking home the title of “Best female athlete – dialysis”.

Proud of our NephroCare patients

Three of the Hungarian athletes who contributed to the country’s noteworthy performance in Finland are also NephroCare patients, Fanni Kisbakonyi, Tímea Persa and Kinga Jakab. On the first day of the games, Fanni Kisbakonyi won the mini-marathon. Later, she finished second in the 800-metre run. Tímea Persa won a silver and a bronze medal, finishing 2nd in table tennis doubles and 3rd in singles. Kinga Jakab came in 4th in the 3000 metre woman’s racewalking. Congratulations to all three for their outstanding athletic achievements.

The NephroCare team was lucky enough to speak with each of the three ladies and athletes to hear about their stories and experiences first hand.

In the words of Fanni Kisbakonyi:

“I started dialysis quite early, at the age of 22 in 2014. Sport was always part of my life but after trying out different kinds at university, I developed a passion for running. Just one day before my first dialysis session I ran a 10K. Since then, I have participated in 22 long distance races, six of which were half marathons. I even ran a 30K! Through Trappancs (a foundation in Hungary for transplanted young people), I decided I wanted to participate in the European Transplant and Dialysis Sports Championships. My dream came true.”

“I am very thankful to everybody who helped me to get there. The Transplantation Foundation, Fresenius Medical Care, my coach, Agnes Jung, my family, my boss and all my other supporters. The European Championships was a great event and a huge experience for me. The games marked the 7th half marathon for me and now I’m waiting for the possibility to get transplanted. My motto: Impossible does not exist!”

First-hand from Kinga Jakab:

“I started dialysis in 2002. At the time, I thought it was the end of real life, but that’s proven to be untrue. I got to know the nicest head nurse you can imagine and she empowered me and helped me to get through the difficult initial phase. My motto today: Never give up! In 2004 I met my partner, who accepts my disease. He taught me about his hobby, angling, but I wanted to try out other sports too so I started hiking with a dialysis nurse from our NephroCare centre. Then I learned about power walking. I have a very good coach and I never stop learning. Twice a week I work out with my coach and on the other days I practice along the Danube River in Esztergom, my hometown.”

“Before the European championships, I also participated in a training camp and felt ready to compete. Then the date drew closer and closer. It was quite cold in Finland – at least I always felt cold – but everything was very well organised. There I underwent dialysis three times a week, just like at home. Unfortunately, on the day of my race, it was raining and was only 12° Celsius. After crossing the finish line, I knew I was going to dialysis right away – whatever the weather. It was a great experience!”

Timea Persa’s experience:

“I’m an APD (automated peritoneal dialysis) patient and have dialysis during the night, allowing me to play sport. My choice was table tennis since it suits my health condition. I work out twice a week with my coach. Let’s be clear: this sport is not as easy as it looks on TV!”

“My dream came true when with the help of the Transplant Foundation and Fresenius Medical Care I was able to participate in the games in Finland! When I arrived at the hotel, my APD machine was already in my room with all necessary fluids. Participating in the championships was a great opportunity for me. I made new friends and we talked about our experiences a lot.”

Once again, we extend a huge congratulations to these three ladies and to all other athletes – from Hungary and other countries – who participated in the 2016 games. All of you inspire others to embrace life and living and to never give up. Consult your nephrologist to learn what kind of physical activity is best-fit for your health!