WA set to host 2023 World Transplant Games

While excitement builds over the Brisbane Olympics in 2032, the next international sporting event to take place in Australia will be right here in Western Australia. 

Perth is set to host the World Transplant Games in 2023, with athletes from 50 countries flocking to WA to compete for gold, silver and bronze. 

Chris Thomas, chief executive of Transplant Australia, says the games’ format started more than 40 years ago. 

“It first emerged because transplant recipients, with all the drugs that they were taking, were barred from participating in regular sport,” he said.

The World Transplant Games Federation was formed and a competition for those who have received a life supporting allografts and haemopoietic cell transplants was created.

There are even a few events that donors can participate in. 

The athletes parade at the 2019 World Transplant Games. (

Supplied: Transplant Australia/Rich Kenworthy


WA transplant recipients ready to compete

Sue Thompson grew up in WA’s Wheatbelt region and was diagnosed with a genetic kidney disease when she was 12.

She started dialysis before she had even started high school and spent years hoping to receive a life-saving kidney transplant. 

In 1986, just days before Mrs Thompson’s 14th birthday, the phone rang. 

“I remember the phone ringing at 2 o’clock in the morning and my dad answering it,” she said.

“It was just amazing … I thought, ‘I think my life is going to change now.'”

About 5:00am that same morning, Mrs Thompson’s family packed up their car and made the journey to Princess Margaret Hospital in Perth. 

The donated kidney was successfully transplanted and she finally got her wish.

Now living in the south-west coastal city of Busselton, Mrs Thompson is a keen swimmer and has her eye on the starting blocks at the World Transplant Games. 

“I’m very excited that it’s in Perth,” she said.

“I really enjoy swimming and I have been to the Australian Transplant Games and competed in swimming there.

“It’s also a huge opportunity to showcase Western Australia to all those people as well.”

In the three decades since her transplant, Mrs Thompson has barely set foot in a hospital: “Apart from having my children”.

“So in 36 years, that’s amazing,” she said.

A woman in a bathing suit stands next to two volunteers at the start of a swimming race
Sue Thompson competed in the swimming leg at the Busselton Ironman in 2019. (

Supplied: Sue Thompson


Celebrating donors and doctors 

Mr Thomas said the Transplant Games served three purposes.

“One is to try to encourage transplant recipients to be as fit as possible around their transplanted organs, the gift of life that they have received,” he said.

“It also enables us to promote organ donation and encourage more people across the world to consider … organ donation because they see the benefits of donation through the lives of these recipients.

“And thirdly, and really importantly, it enables us to say thank you to the people who made it possible.

“That’s the doctors, the nurses, and, of course, the all-important donors. Without them, there really wouldn’t be anyone on the starting line.”

A large group of people gather at the start line of a running race.
The Gift of Life running event at the 2019 World Transplant Games, held in the UK.  (

Supplied: Transplant Australia/Rob Chambers 


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