ATHLETE Steve Whelan is celebrating winning a silver medal in the European Transplant and Dialysis Games.

While the world was watching the start of the Paralympic Games in London, Mr Whelan was back home celebrating his achievement in Zagreb, Croatia.

The 51-year-old came second in the 5km walk race with a time of 32.45 minutes, beating Spanish competitior Joaquin Lacon Exposito by two seconds.

However he finished two minutes behind the Polish world champion Miroslaw Burski.

As if a silver medal was not enough, Mr Whelan also came fourth in the 800m race, which fell on the 12th anniversary of the liver transplant which saved his life.

Now he is already training hard to grab the gold at next year’s World Games in Durban, South Africa.

He said: “It was fabulous. I am very happy about it.

“It sets me up for Durban and gives me the impetus to train harder over the winter.

“It is a great feeling being second fastest in the world.

“It is something I have been striving towards for years.”

He said it would be difficult to imagine how he would feel winning the gold medal.

“For me it is important to always have goals,” he said.

Mr Whelan said the 46C heat in Zagreb probably cost him 50 seconds and he looked forward to competing in the cooler climate of Durban.

The Transplant Games fills a unique niche in the world of sport: a transplant recipient on average will not match the speed of an Olympian, but receiving a transplant does not automatically qualify an athlete for the Paralympic Games. The world record for a 100m sprint at the Transplant Games is 11.1 seconds, but the new world record at the Paralympic Games, set by Irishman Jason Smyth on Friday, is 10.46 seconds.

Mr Whelan said he thought paralympians were “hugely inspirational people.”

Mr Whelan received his life-saving liver transplant after contracting a waterborne virus in South America which brought him close to death.

He said the Transplant and Dialysis Games is also chance to raise the profile of life- saving transplants and encourage others to become organ donors.

He returned triumphant on Friday and started training again yesterday.

lTo become an organ donor visit or call 0300 123 2323.