Cwmbran's Gareth Duke gives up swimming because of kidney failure
A GWENT Paralympic medal holder was forced to give up the sport he loves after a second kidney transplant stopped working.
Cwmbran's Gareth Duke, who won gold at Athens in 2004, was forced to retire from swimming last summer, ending his dream of competing at London 2012.
But even though Mr Duke, from Pontnewydd, will not be taking part at next week's Paralympics, he will be supporting his cousin Kyron Duke who will be competing in the F40 javelin and shotput.
The cousins both have the condition known as Acondroplasia, a form of dwarfism, and Gareth was also born with the kidney disease Alport's syndrome.
He was given a kidney by his father Trevor Myers in 2006 but this failed and he was forced to go on dialysis during the Beijing Paralympic Games in 2008.
Despite having no kidneys and having dialysis in between his training, Mr Duke won a silver medal in the 100m breastroke.
Mr Duke, who only has 20 percent hearing and is also asthmatic, said he was very unwell, especially with the heat, and kept fainting.
"It was a tough time but I was still only a second away from getting the gold," he said.
Mr Duke was given a kidney by his uncle Jeffrey Myers in 2010 but that stopped working last July after about 16 months and Mr Duke has been on dialysis three times a week ever since.
It was then he decided to officially retire from swimming - the sport he took up at the age of about eight.
"I do think I could have been there this year. I was looking forward to London 2012 and I thought I could do it," he said.
Mr Duke used to train in Swansea twice a day, six times a week.
He said: "Swimming was my life. I used to love it and went to the gym three times a week. But dialysis takes everything from you."
He said the effects of the dialysis means he can not work.
He said: "The day after dialysis you're supposed to feel better but I feel worse. I have good days and bad days.
"I can only walk a couple of yards and I have to sit down to get my breath back."
He is being assessed about going on the kidney transplant waiting list and said he would then like to get a job and try another sport.
Dad Trevor Myers, 58, said: "He's done better than anyone could have expected. He has his medals and nobody can take them away from him. He just needs a kidney to get back to normality."
There are 284 people in Wales waiting for a transplant, according to NHS figures released last week, which showed 240 organ transplants took place on Welsh patients in 2011/12, but 41 people died waiting for a transplant in Wales.
The Welsh Government is consulting on a proposed law to introduce a opt-out organ system.
To join the organ donation register, call 0300 123 2323 or see organdonation.nhs/uk Gareth is hoping to go to the Paralympics to see friends such as Newport swimmer Liz Johnson and 19-year-old cousin Kyron Duke compete.
Kyron, who will compete in the f40 javelin and shot put, is in Portugal with ParalympicsGB.
Kyron's sister Kerry Duke said he joined Disability Sport Wales at the age of seven or eight and started in the relay team.
He went on to train in powerlifting and the javelin and shot put, but had to choose between them when he became an elite athlete.
Miss Duke, 33, said: "He's always dreamed of being an athlete. When he was younger he never felt he could have a career and would say 'who wants to employ someone like me?' but he's proved people wrong."
Kyron is a qualified carpenter having completed an apprenticeship with Coleg Gwent last year.
Miss Duke said: "Sport might not last forever. It's great while it's happening but he wanted something to fall back on so he has got a trade."
Miss Duke said they are all really excited about Kyron competing and said she, her partner Shane and mother Brenda have tickets to watch Kyron on September 6.
But Miss Duke will miss seeing Kyron compete the following day as she will be at her graduation ceremony at the University of Wales, Newport.
She said: "We're all really excited. I think my Mum has told everyone she knows."