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Stopping for Sportsmanship

Posted July 30, 2012 in News Category
imgp4921Deven Shelton participated in the 50 meter dash.

If only the entire world would show the level of sportsmanship, friendship, and respect as the track and field competitors did Monday at the 2012 Transplant Games of America in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Meet Joe Eitzel. Joe is a member of Team Virginia and a 10-year-old liver recipient who had a rare disease called ornithine transcarbamylase deficiency (OTC).  The condition causes ammonia to build up to unsafe levels in the blood because the liver lacks the necessary enzymes. 

Many children with OTC have developmental delays and can’t walk. Joe ran the 50 meter dash Monday, but stopped just short of the finish line.

You see, Joe was competing against Deven Shelton from Team St. Louis. Deven is six-years-old and also has OTC. Deven uses a walker in 50 dash.

The two met at the 2010 Games in Madison, Wisconsin and had an instant bond.“Joe immediately took to Deven,” Joe’s father, Rich, said. “I think there was that connection. Joe knows TC.”

On Monday, Joe knew he was racing against Deven, and that he could beat Deven in the race. He also knew there were four competitors for three medals. As Deven made the walk down the front straight away in front of more than 1,000 fans cheering him on. Joe stopped just short of the finish line. He turned, and cheered for Deven until he crossed the finish line. Then Joe crossed the line.

imgp5035Deven Shelton, left, and Team Virginia's Joe Eitzel.

Deven earned a medal.

“There are very few kids that are actually walking around today, or even alive today, that have had this disorder,” said Steve Shelton, Deven’s father. “There’s only a handful that have survived it, and two of them are here on the same day and they’re practically friends now.”

Steve and his wife, Amanda, didn’t realize what had happened until after the race.“I was so focused on Deven that I didn’t notice Joe,” Steve said. “But when I heard what he did … pretty much turn on the waterworks for me. It was emotional, especially knowing that Joe planned that himself. Dad put the idea in his head, but Joe wanted to do that.” 

Turns out Joe won a medal in the 50, too, when another competitor was disqualified for crossing a lane line.Deven also won bronze in the softball throw.

Racewalking and Celebrating the Gift of Life 

imgp5235Laurie Brown, right, won four medals on Monday.

Before the first race of the day, the 1500 meter women’s racewalk, Terri Garner from Team Northern California approached the official starter and told him she was a little unsteady. She was told at one time she wouldn’t be able to walk.

On Monday, she walked the 3-and-3/4 laps of the track to complete the racewalk.

As Team St. Louis’s Laurie Brown finished, Terri still had a lap to go. Laurie caught up with her and walked with her to encourage her.“When she talked to the official, I knew we would go back and walk with her to give her support,” Laurie said. “I know when I’m out there alone racing, it’s the last lap and you’re the last one – and I’ve been there – it’s hard to stay motivated and keep going.”

On the back straight away, the other race walkers joined Laurie and Terri. They cheered for her until they all crossed the finish line.  “I just wanted to be there and give her positive support,” Laurie said. “I was glad to see all the race walkers join.”

Laurie earned a gold medal in race walking, one of four medals she won on the day. 

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