“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!
Pass the doughnuts!
I’ve often wondered if sporting activity is really good for you. In the light of some of the recent events in the world of the elite sportsman, I’m starting to think I might actually have something!
The dramatic pictures of Fabrice Muamba, the Bolton Wanderers footballer, suffering a heart attack at the age of 23 on the pitch at White Hart Lane during the FA Cup quarter final against Spurs, were shocking to say the least, but happily, despite being technically dead for 78 minutes, he appears to be making a miraculous recovery and we can only hope that he continues to progress well.
The Motherwell FC player, Phil O’Donnell was not as fortunate. He died following a cardiac arrest during a game against Dundee on 29th December 2007. He was 35 years old, married and had 4 young children.
So it was yet another shock to read in the news today of the death of Norway’s world swimming champion, Alexander Dale Oen, at the age of 26. Again, he had suffered a cardiac arrest. He was found collapsed in a shower yesterday evening after a training session in Arizona. Having won silver at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, Norway’s first Olympic swimming medal, he was considered a strong hope for this summer’s London Games.
My thoughts and good wishes are with all the families, to lose a loved one at any age is difficult but particularly harrowing if they are in their prime with everything to live for.