“Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water…,”
There are many courageous stories from the Paralympics, but the one that has captured my interest today is that of swimmer Achmat Hassiem, who uses special motivation to go fast: he imagines being chased by the great white shark that bit off his right leg.
The South African was attacked by a shark off the coast of Cape Town six years ago after he lured the great white away from his younger brother. Before then Hassiem had competed in various sports, including swimming, but wasn’t sure what to do after losing his leg.
It was South African Paralympic swimming champion Natalie du Toit who encouraged Hassiem to get back into the water. Before long, he started breaking his country’s Paralympic records.
The 30-year-old Hassiem came to the London Paralympics determined to do better than his ninth-place finish at the Beijing Paralympics four years ago. On Saturday, he won bronze in the men’s 100-meter butterfly.
‘My little secret is obviously that I just try and imagine I’m in the ocean and I’ve got a 4 ½-meter great white shark at my feet,’ Hassiem said. ‘It’s definitely good motivation to swim fast.‘ With more than a little irony he added ‘I took to the pool like a shark in the ocean,’ .
Speaking after receiving his medal he said: ‘I believe I lost my leg for a good reason,’ he said. ‘Losing a leg is nothing compared to losing my brother, so I’m just trying to make the best of it.’
And making the best of it he certainly is! This, and of course the hundreds of other incredible stories we’ve heard during these Games, are an inspiration to us all. Well done!