For The Madera Tribune
Matt DeFina and the gold medal he won in Spain at the World Transplant Games June 25 through July 2.
Just three weeks after urging this year’s Madera High School graduating class to “never give up, always persevere, “ Madera native and Coyote alumnus Matt DeFina took his own words to heart and traveled to Malaga, Spain, to compete in the 2017 World Transplant Games as part of the Team USA contingent.
Accompanied by wife, Denise, and daughter, Gracie, DeFina was one of 2,000 athletes from 70 countries who lives have been changed, indeed saved, through organ transplantation.
As he carried the U.S. flag into the Arena del Toros in the opening ceremony, DeFina proclaimed, “We’re here to show the world that transplantation works.”
Events for DeFina included Team USA volleyball and Team USA basketball, in which he and teammates won gold.
Track and field events in which he participated included the long jump, cricket ball throw,
4 x 100 relay and the javelin, for which he won a silver medal.
A double-lung recipient who received his transplant in 2012, DeFina embodies the courage, determination and fortitude that he encourages people everywhere to embrace.
“Every one of us at these games is now alive because of an organ transplant ... and not just surviving, but thriving,” DeFina said.
His wife, Denise, added: “I am so thankful for Matt’s organ donor and the miracle of a second chance at life that God has given him. Five and a half years ago, he was on oxygen 24-7, and couldn’t walk up our stairs. Today, he’s an amazing athlete competing in the World Transplant Games. God is so good!”
About his individual silver medal, DeFina said, “One year ago, I picked up a javelin for the first time in my life. Since then, I’ve sought the advice of former collegiate throwers and coaches, worked out in the gym and practiced, practiced, practiced, and practiced some more. Hard work does pay off!”
DeFina was overwhelmed by emotion as he reflected over his week in Malaga.
“This was such an incredible and inspirational week. I was amazed at the athleticism and competitiveness that was demonstrated by so many athletes. The medals won are nice, and certainly bring about a sense of accomplishment. However, this week served as a great reminder that nothing is as nice as the gift of life.
“This week has been an awesome celebration of life, and today, more than ever, I’m grateful to be alive and to have received a second chance at life.”
DeFina now will turn his attention to training fore the U.S. Transplant Games, to be held next summer in Salt Lake City.