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Making a splash

Liam Barnett (MEng 2010)

28-year-old Liam (above) won seven gold medals and set four new world records

Richard Adams (BSc 1971)

Richard (above) also won a hat-trick of medals - a gold, silver and bronze

29 September 2015

Liam Barnett (MEng 2010) and Richard Adams (BSc 1971) have returned from this year’s World Transplant Games with a haul of medals - and four new world records - between them.

Swimmers Liam and Richard travelled to the picturesque seaside town of Mar del Plata in Argentina for the 20th edition of the World Transplant Games, which are held every two years in August and comprise 13 sports including track and field, cycling, badminton, tennis and squash.

Former captain of the University swimming team, and now captain of the Great Britain and Northern Ireland (GB & NI) male swimming team, 28-year-old Liam won seven gold medals and set four new world records.

'The team were phenomenal,' Liam says. 'In total, we won 61 gold medals, 25 silver medals and eight bronze medals. What’s more, of the 46 new world records that were set during the games, GB & NI set 23.'

Liam underwent a liver transplant a year after graduating, having been diagnosed with primary sclerosing cholangitis – a condition that causes the immune system to attack the liver – aged just 13.

'The games are our chance to show what is possible after transplantation,' he says, 'and I am so proud of the whole team. They have done so much to help promote organ donation in the UK and across the world.'

Liam had previously competed in the World Transplant Games in 2013 but for 65-year-old teammate Richard, the games were his first experience of competing on a global stage.

Competing in the 60-69 age group, Richard won gold for his 50m breaststroke, silver for his 100m freestyle and bronze for his 400m freestyle.

'My success has been lovely and surprising,' Richard says. 'Not just at the World Transplant Games, but at the Scottish Masters Championships and the British Transplant Games too. Medals are a complete novelty in my life.'

Richard, who studied chemistry and later became a teacher, underwent a bone marrow transplant in 2010, after being diagnosed with myelodisplastic syndrome (MDS). A bag of stem cells donated by a 38-year-old stranger saved Richard’s life.

But, as Liam explains, transplant is often only the start. 'Obviously having surgery is really tough,' he says, 'but it's just the beginning. Most of us have to take aggressive immunosuppressant medication so our bodies don’t reject our new organs. It can be tough, and means we’re more susceptible to coughs, colds, and getting ill from over-training, which can really hinder our long-term goals. We have to find a balance and learn how far we can push ourselves.'

Richard agrees: 'Success does come at a cost. For me, 2015 has been a year of really heavy training – probably too heavy, bearing in mind I am at retirement age and dealing with the long-term effects of illness and transplant. I was also hampered by injury for a number of weeks. In some ways, I’m actually quite relieved it’s over – until 2017 at least – and am definitely enjoying rest and recovery!'

Ultimately though, both Richard and Liam are exceptionally grateful to have had the chance to compete. 'We are so grateful to our donors for saving our lives,' Liam says. 'Sadly, others are dying while on the organ transplant and bone marrow waiting lists. More donors are signing up, but still not quickly enough.’

Richard and Liam are passionate about encouraging people to sign up to the organ donor and bone marrow registers, and for people to discuss their wishes with their family.


Further information

To find out more about organ donation and sign up, please visit:

 To find out more about bone marrow donation and sign up, please visit: