The majority of us would have woken up to the sad news that New Zealand Rugby great Johan Lomu has passed away aged 40. His passing will not only be mourned by New Zealand and the Rugby Union World but by sports fans all over the world. Even if you not a fan of Rugby Union, I think you can appreciate what great sporting icon and great man Johan Lomu was.
Lomu born in Pukekohe in Auckland, New Zealand. He would represent the New Zealand Rugby Union side on 36 occasions and was the first true global superstar of the sport. Lomu first came to prominence whilst playing in the 1994 Hong Kong Sevens tournament for his country and would go on to be the star of the 1995 World Cup in South Africa. New Zealand fell at the final hurdle in that tournament, losing the final to hosts South Africa.
At the end of 1995 Lomu was diagnosed with Nephrotic Syndrome, a rare and serious kidney disorder. His rugby career was put on hold whilst he received treatment for the illness. Despite the illness Lomu carried on with his rugby career, just taking time off occasionally to receive treatment.
In 2004 he underwent a kidney transplant at an Auckland hospital. The kidney was donated by New Zealand radio presenter Grant Kereama. Lomu made his rugby comeback in 2005 in a testimonial for former England captain Martin Johnson at Twickenham. He scored a try in the first-half of the game but in the process injured his shoulder but have to undergo surgery on the shoulder, rulig him out of action for a sustained period.
The transplant he received in 2004 starting failing in 2011 and Lomu would later reveal that he almost died after participating in the opening ceremony of the 2011 World Cup. Since then Lomu has been on the waiting list for a second kidney transplant and has been receiving dialysis treatment three times a week for six hours a day.
In an interview with the Daily Mail in August, Lomu stated it was his goal to live until he was 55, so he could see both his children Brayley, six and Dhyreille, five, reach their 21 birthdays.
There are no guarantees that will happen, but it’s my focus
It’s a milestone that every parent wants to get to. My dad died young and that makes you think. I want my boys to be healthy and if they get to 21, they should be fit and healthy and live a normal life.
Sadly Johan Lomu died unexpectedly this morning at his Auckland home. He will forever be remembered as not just a great of the rugby and sporting world but as a great man, who thought right to the very end. He showed real power and strength not just on the pitch but in his battle with this illness.