Derry cancer survivor Fidelma Hodkinson has won double gold at the World Transplant Games in South Africa.
Representing Great Britain and Northern Ireland, the Culmore Road woman took top honours in her age group in the 5K cycling time trial and then the 20km cycling road race this week.
As if the double gold success wasn’t enough, Fidelma is competing for a third medal in the 100m sprint in the Durban stadium today.
Fidelma, whose life was saved by a transplant of bone marrow donated by her sister, Fiona in 2002, told the ‘Journal’ that her successful run in the events at the Games came as something of a surprise. “It’s taken me all by surprise I must say.” But the wins were far from easy for Fidelma in the Super Veteran 60-69 years category. “In the road race particularly the lady on my tail the whole time gave me a very hard race,” she said.
She’s now “hoping” to make it a hat-trick of golds. “I’ve one more event on Friday when I’ll take part in the 100m sprint, so I’m looking forward to that,” she added.
Fidelma said her success was down to the “great support” from her family members watching both in Durban and at home. ‘Team Fidelma’ are behind Derry’s golden girl all the way.
“They’re are what kept me going and keep me going, my husband Oliver, son Johnny and his girlfriend Katy - who are all here with me - and my daughter Clare who is at home as she has just recently had a baby.” She also paid tribute to her sister Fiona, who donated bone marrow for Fidelma’s transplant in 2002 after she was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia (AML).
“She saved my life really. Organ transplantation is really something else - it’s the gift of life,” she said.
Fidelma committed to travelling to Durban for the world games after success in last year’s UK Transplant Sports Games with her family “spurring her on” to go for it.
She also felt she wanted to do something to raise awareness of the importance of donation. When she had the opportunity to take part in the Transplant Sports Games, which were held this year in Belfast, she seized it.
“To be honest, I didn’t really know what I was letting myself in for. The atmosphere was wonderful.
It was exceptionally humbling - all these people who have come through transplants showing such amazing determination and strength of spirit.”
Following that experience, Fidelma really upped the ante in her training regime - the Foyle Cycling Club member taking to the roads every weekend to improve her fitness. “I was never really athletic in my life but the transplant gave me a new lease of life.”
Fidelma is now fully recovered - and leads and active life enjoying her retirement and spending time in the garden with Oliver.
She is also enjoying her new role as a grandmother to three.