Celebrating unity, sportsmanship, and the Gift of organ and tissue donation at the 2024 World Transplant Winter Games

A few weeks have passed since the 12th World Transplant Winter Games took place in Bormio, Italy 03 – 08 March 2024, but the impact and memories are set to last a lifetime.

We look back with immense pride and gratitude on the incredible moments of unity, sportsmanship and triumph that graced these five remarkable days in Bormio, Italy.

Returning to Bormio after 20 years, the scene was set for thrilling competition. Nestled in the heart of the Alps and known for its world-class winter sports facilities, Bormio provided the perfect landscape to reunite the transplant community after a four-year break since the last Winter Games in Banff, Canada 2020.

This international event, renowned for its celebration of unity, excellence, and the transformative power of organ and tissue donation, captivated attendance from around the globe, with 21 countries participating in 5 days of competition. 246 participants registered for the games, with an additional 60 – 100 people attending as supporters, volunteers, officials, and staff. During the competition, we saw inspiring transplant recipients, living donors, and donor families of all ages and abilities participate in Alpine, Nordic and Curling events.

From the moment participants arrived in Bormio, the town was filled with anticipation and excitement. The Parade of Nations through the streets of Bormio created much attention from onlookers and the collective sense of unity and purpose could be felt in the cool winter air. Athletes, supporters, and friends gathered at Kuerc Square for the opening ceremony, setting the stage for an unforgettable event.

A moment of silence was shared to honor those who had previously passed, while the beloved Games mascot, Donato, shared the spotlight with Tina and Milo, the mascots for the upcoming Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games in Milano Cortina 2026. The entertainment soared to new heights with two fire artists mesmerizing the audience with their fiery performances.

Additionally, Lisa Cuthbertson of Australia was inducted into the WTGF Hall of Fame for her remarkable attendance at 18 World Transplant Games, spanning over three decades since her debut in Singapore in 1989.

As the competitions unfolded, spectators were treated to a spectacle of skill, determination, and sportsmanship. From the Alpine events held at Bormio 2000 to the Nordic competitions at the Ski Stadium Valdidentro and the spirited matches at Bormio Curling Club, each venue buzzed with energy and excitement.

Some highlights of the games included witnessing the achievements of athletes like Isaac O’Kane from GBNI, whose fearless skiing at just 10 years old captured hearts and inspired onlookers. Meanwhile, seasoned competitors like Roy Ames from USA and Gudrun Manuwald-Seemuller from Germany showcased that age is no barrier when you are powered by the gift of life.

Standout male competitors, Lukasz Bojanowski from Poland and Cameron McGregor Ogden from GBNI, showcased remarkable speed across various skiing events. Living Donor Holly McGregor Ogden, also from GBNI, emerged as the fastest female competitor, excelling in all four of her events. Additionally, Jyrki Seitamaa from Finland and Martin Krimbacher from Austria dominated the snowboard competitions, while WTGF President Liz Schick from Switzerland demonstrated exceptional skill, securing multiple medals in both ski and snowboard events.

Milos Dusek from the Czech Republic clinched the fastest time in the Cross Country 5km event, while Mikael Herqvist from Sweden and Milos Dusek shared the overall victory in the Cross Country 1 hour event. Mikael also secured first place in biathlon. Stefano Dalrai from Italy achieved the fastest overall time in the snowshoe event. In the female competitions, Veronique Dupras from France showcased dominance across all cross-country events, the biathlon, and the snowshoe event.

The Curling tournament, held across 4 days was a massive hit with teams from GBNI, USA, Germany, Switzerland, Canada, Poland and Belgium all taking part. An enthralling final between Great Britain Northern Ireland, and Switzerland, which saw GBNI take the final overall gold medal.

The Nicholas Cup Day Camp brought together transplant youth and supporters from around the world to participate in this memorable experience held within the Winter Games. With participants from Italy, Australia, GBNI, and Canada, the camp was filled with excitement and friendship. Throughout the week, they enjoyed ski lessons in the morning and fun social activities in the afternoons, building confidence and forming friendships.

The Nicholas Cup Race, held in memory of Nicholas Green, a young American boy who was killed in Italy 30 years ago and whose family donated his organs, marked the culmination of their experience, with all youth participants showcasing their skills in a slalom race. Congratulations to Giancarlo de Frede from Italy for winning the Nicholas Cup.

The most standout highlight was the love and appreciation between transplant recipients, living donors, and donor families. Without the donors, there would be no one at the finish line. The love was magnifying as everyone cheered and celebrated the generosity of living donors and donor families participating in the games, whether as competitors, volunteers, or supporters.

Beyond the competition, the Games foster solidarity among nations. Athletes, living donors, donor families, and supporters all embrace diversity and celebrate the universal language of sport and celebrate the Gift of Life. The friendships formed, the cheers for everyone to cross the finish line, the high fives and hugs, and the wiping of tears from an athlete overwhelmed by the experience were evident throughout.

The success of the Games would not have been possible without the dedication and support of countless individuals, including the staff and leadership of ANED, our hosts, the athletes, coaches, volunteers, family and friends, officials, and, of course, the donors. The tireless efforts and unwavering commitment of all have left an undeniable mark on the World Transplant Winter Games.

As the flame of the Games is extinguished, it ignites a new chapter of collaboration, friendship and excellence as we look forward to the next Games in 2026. The spirit of the World Transplant Winter Games will continue to champion the cause of organ donation worldwide and inspire all and serve as a beacon of hope and solidarity for all.

“It is a great source of pride to have brought back to Italy after 20 years the World Transplant Winter Games and to obtain so many sincere acknowledgements from the athletes and their families, the technical teams of the participating nations, and the entire WTGF board. We wanted to honor the memory of Franca Pellini, founder of ANED and tireless animator of sports for transplanted and dialysis patients, and at the same time enhance the message of hope of transplantation that accompanies all WTGF activities wherever around the world. An exhilarating and challenging event that was made possible thanks to the efforts of so many people, my acknowledgement to all indiscriminately, professionals and volunteers, who worked with passion far beyond their institutional duties.” – Dr Giuseppe Vanacore, President of ANED

“I first met Franca Pellini at my very first Winter World Transplant Games in Nendaz, Switzerland in 2001. She was an amazing, unforgettable woman, who believed in our cause and would have loved the WTG in Bormio. She was and will always be part of our global transplant family. Our friends from ANED did an amazing job and the technical team for all the sports were not only highly professional but also lovely people who were touched by our cause. I would like to thank everyone involved, who worked incessantly on making the event simply outstanding. A heartfelt thanks to all and we look forward to celebrating with you again in 2026! Our events belong to our special family. Together we are stronger.” – Liz Schick, WTGF President