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06 JUNE 2012

Children who triumphed over disease seek new challenges at the Winners’ Games

On the 31st of May to the 2nd of June, the Podari Zhizn and Gift of Life foundations
hosted the World Children Winners’ Games in Moscow. 350 former juvenile cancer
patients from a dozen countries gathered to celebrate their hard-won health and let
their courage and determination drive them on to new victories.

The three-day tournament featured a wide variety of competitions, from swimming
and football to shooting and chess, as well as more unusual challenges such as
walking and assisted running for competitors with impaired mobility. Countless
professional sportsmen and sportswomen, as well as other celebrities from all walks
of life, came to cheer the children on, award medals, and even hold a professional
football master class. They included the Olympic tennis champion Elena Dementieva
and the world shooting champion Svetlana Dyomina.

There were many striking performances from children who, not that long ago,
were bedridden in hospitals and fighting for their very lives. As Volodya Medvid’,
a member of Podari Zhizn’s own team, commented, the medals aren’t the greatest
reward for participating – “what matters most is that I made it to this competition in
the first place.” Once trapped in a hospital bed and unable even to walk, Volodya has
now taken the prize for light athletics in his age group.

Though some of the children went to great lengths to prepare for their competitions,
such as months of practice with parents or even coaches, there were equally many
who came along purely for the adventure and excitement of trying something new
and pushing themselves to their limits. Luckily, Podari Zhizn and its friends and
supporters had planned for this, and would-be champions were given all the help they
needed, such as dozens of practice table tennis tables and world-level professional
tips; in some cases, they were even taught the rules of chess from scratch!

One thing that stood out to many was the amazing positive spirit of the competitions.
In the words of spectator Anna S., “it’s great that everything feels so warm here. There
isn’t the harsh atmosphere of ordinary competitions. The supporters don’t just cheer
for children in their own teams, but they applaud and shout words of encouragement
to everyone. It’s all so friendly, and it’s a pleasure to watch and cheer on such spirited
children.”

And at the end of the three days, the 350 children returned to their home countries,
having made many new friends and gained new faith in their ability to overcome
disease and emerge from a troubled past into a future full of hope. As world and
Olympic swimming champion Maria Kiseleva congratulated the children, “you’ve
won the great victories of your lives, and now new conquests await you. This is very
exciting and very cool.”

Podari Zhizn and Gift of Life would like to extend their heartfelt gratitude to the
Gorky Central Park of Culture and Leisure and Sberbank of Russia for making this
exceptional event possible.

For more information about the World Children Winners’ Games, please visit the
event website at http://www.winnersgames.ru/en.