Wendy and her super kidney swim to glory

IPSWICH swimmer Wendy Baker has set the World Transplant Games alight, and it's all down to Sidney the Kidney.

By Nicola Markwell


IPSWICH swimmer Wendy Baker has set the World Transplant Games alight, and it's all down to Sidney the Kidney.

Since Sidney arrived through a kidney transplant operation nearly six years ago, Baker has competed in three Transplant Games, but this was her biggest medal haul yet.

Baker, 46, of Congreve Road, won four gold medals and two silver at the games, held in Kobe, Japan.

She took gold medals in the 50m, 100m and 200m freestyle and the 50m breaststroke, and silver in the 100m breastroke and 4 x 50m medley relay.

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"I am so pleased. It was wonderful to win something tangible to show to all the people that have supported me," she said.

Baker underwent the operation at Addenbrookes Hospital in Cambridge after years of dialysis and treatment.

'Sidney the kidney', as she calls it, is about to reach its sixth birthday, and regularly receives cards and presents from the rest of Baker's family and friends.

The transplant coordinator at Ipswich Hospital, Linda Cartmel, has known Wendy for many years. She said:

"I am really proud of her, she has done so well. It just goes to show what a difference a transplant can make to someone's life.

"She is so fit and healthy and since the operation she lives a completely normal life. It's wonderful."

Cartmel recently completed an abseil down the maternity block at Ipswich Hospital to raise money for Baker to enter the competition, which is entirely self-funded.

"I am so grateful for her help," said Baker. "She has been wonderful. She was completely petrified, but she did it anyway."

There was some controversy during the Games over the medals in the 200m freestyle, as only three people entered the race and officials originally decided not to award any medals.

However, at the awards ceremony on the last night it was announced that all the entrants would indeed be rewarded, bringing Baker's gold medal haul to a total of four.

"Many of the entrants were too tired and didn't feel they could manage the 200m as well - it is such a long way!

"The whole event can be very tiring, the swimming is held over two days and the first day lasted for a full 12 hours," said Baker.

But despite her agony, Baker completed the race, taking first place and cementing her highest tally of gold medals so far.

"You train and train and you always hope that you'll win something, but you never imagine anything like this," she said.

"The Transplant Games are always very emotional because everyone has been through a tremendously hard time to get there. But there is a wonderful atmosphere - everyone there has had a transplant of some sort and that really brings all the competitors together."

She now hopes to go on and compete in the next games, to be held in France in 2003.

"You just have to make the most of every day," she said.

"I have been blessed with an unconditional gift and I just try and live each day to the full."