BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - LSU is calling on Tiger fans to help a former champion sprinter who is in desperate need of a kidney transplant.
Gabriel Mvumvure, 28, got the news shortly after representing his native country, Zimbabwe, at The Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. As a team of professional athletes warmed up for practice at the LSU indoor track on Tuesday, they were focused and ready for their daily drills. But hitting the turf has been a little more challenging these days. That's because a star runner is missing.
"I can remember the very first time I started running and competing around," Mvumvure said. "I was just running around for fun."
A Zimbabwe native and LSU graduate, Mvumvure's love of running took off at the young age of 11, when he competed in a national championship. At 16, he was the youngest member of the team and competed in the South African Championship.
"When I was 16, I was sold. I wanted to do running full time," Mvumvure explained.
Two years later, Mvumvure moved to the US and joined the LSU Tigers in 2008. The rest was history. In his freshman year, Mvumvure earned three All-American honors on LSU's sprint relay team and was named SEC and NCAA champion. But his career was long from
over. Mvumvure had his eyes set on the Olympics.
"During the Sydney Olympics, I remember watching Maurice Greene. He was my favorite runner at the time," Mvumvure added.
In 2016, it was his turn to represent his native country and LSU. He qualified for The Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. But it was a struggle. The year before, Mvumvure was diagnosed with chronic kidney disease and hypertension. He said doctors told him there was a great chance he would never compete again. Mvumvure proved them wrong.
"For me to defy those odds and qualify for The Olympic Games and be among the few thousands of athletes who make it out of the billions of people is a true testament," Mvumvure said.
The champion sprinter placed seventh in the 100-meter competition. He returned to Baton Rouge, where he planned to recover and train again. But two months after his homecoming, something went terribly wrong.
"I was home on a Friday night and my stomach was not feeling well," Mvumvure added.
A week later, doctors gave Mvumvure the heartbreaking news. His kidneys were failing. He would need a transplant. Running was no longer an option.
"I try to be optimistic that by the miracle of God all this goes away and I'm able to get to my normal life," Mvumvure explained.
While he waits on the transplant, Mvumvure has to do dialysis three times a week for four hours.
The transplant and recovery could cost an estimated $250,000. Mvumvure thought his luck had run out. But LSU said, "Not so fast." The Tiger Athletic Foundation (TAF) stepped in and set up the Gabriel Mvumvure Fund to help pay for his treatments.
Dennis Shaver, LSU head track and field coach, said Mvumvure returned to the track as a volunteer after graduation.
"He's just a first class individual," Shaver said. "He turned out, even as a young person in our program to be a very good leader of our men's and women's teams."
Coach might be on to something. While Mvumvure is not sure setting a world record is in his future, he said heart will always be on track, just maybe in a different role.
"Even if I don't get to run or win any medal, if I can help other people, another kid realize their goal, get into school, graduate, win or achieve something, my life is complete," Mvumvure stated.