New York, NY (May 25, 2002) - Snowboarder and liver transplant recipient Chris Klug was one-of-a-kind at the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City this past February. But this summer, he'll be one of many as he joins 2,000 fellow transplant recipients at the National Kidney Foundation's 2002 U.S. Transplant Games to be held June 25-29 at Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, FL. Klug will light the torch at the Opening Ceremonies and participate in the Donor Recognition Ceremony as he celebrates the gift of life with so many others who have come back from the brink of death.
An Olympic-style event for athletes with life-saving organ transplants, the Games are open to those who have received kidney, liver, heart, lung, pancreas and bone marrow transplants. Athletes will compete for gold, silver and bronze medals in 13 different sports including track and field, swimming, tennis, basketball, cycling and golf. Presented biennially by the National Kidney Foundation since 1990, and sponsored by Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation, the U.S. Transplant Games draw participants from all over the country who are organized into 50 state teams.
Says Klug, "Like all of the athletes at the Transplant Games, I intend to make the most of my gift of life by spreading the message of organ donation." In July 2000, Klug received a liver transplant following a seven-year battle with liver disease. Only five months post transplant, Chris Klug was back on the snowboarding competition circuit, winning a World Cup victory in the parallel giant slalom. At the 2002 Winter Olympics, he turned in an equally gutsy performance and won the bronze medal in the men's parallel giant slalom competition. As with his liver transplant, Klug overcame seemingly insurmountable odds to reach the Olympic podium, squeaking past first-round opponent Jerome Sylvestre of Canada by .05 seconds before making up a .75-second deficit when German Walter Feichter crashed in the second run of the quarterfinals.
"More than 80,000 Americans are currently on the waiting list for life-saving organ transplants and seventeen people die each day while waiting. The Transplant Games showcase the success of transplantation, demonstrating the life-saving power of organ donation," says Drew Baur, NKF chairman.
Attendance at the 2002 U.S. Transplant Games is expected to surpass the record-breaking participation in the 2000 Games of 6,000 people, 2,000 of which were transplant athletes from 50 states and five foreign countries. Athlete participants range in age from three to 75. In addition to athletic competition, the Games will feature four days of special workshops for donor families and a 5K Road Race.
The National Kidney Foundation, a major voluntary nonprofit health organization, is dedicated to preventing kidney disease, improving the health and well-being of individuals and families affected by kidney disease and increasing the availability of kidneys for transplantation. Novartis Pharmaceuticals, proud sponsor of the 2002 Games, has supported the event since 1990. A committed partner to the transplant community, Novartis is dedicated to enhancing therapeutic options, quality of life and long term success of therapy for transplant recipients.
For more information on the Games, click here.