Unlike some Paralympic athletes that partake in boosting to enhance their race performances, shark attack victim and South African Paralympic athlete currently competing in London, Achmat Hassiem, uses the image of a Great White Shark for motivation.
30-year-old Hassiem was attacked by a large Great White Shark and lost his right leg in the attack that took place at Muizenberg beach in Cape Town in 2006.
He had lured the shark away from his younger brother by thrashing the water to distract the shark. His brother made it to safety, but the shark turned on Hassiem and dragged him under water until his leg snapped off. The two had been partaking in lifeguard exercises off the popular beach.
Now Hassiem uses the animal as motivation to swim faster.
He says of the attack:
[While being dragged] I gave one last enormous push and heard a great snapping sound. I believe I lost my leg for a good reason. Losing a leg is nothing compared to losing my brother, so I’m just trying to make the best of it.
He said that as his brother was pulling him onto the boat, he looked back and saw the shark chewing on what must have been his foot.
Before the attack, he was a seasoned sportsman and had competed in various sports, including swimming, but wasn’t sure what to do after losing his leg.
Before long, Natalie du Toit got him back into the water, and Hassiem has bettered his Beijing Paralympic performance at the London Paralympics by beating his ninth-place finish four years ago by taking bronze in the men’s 100m S10 butterfly on Saturday.
My little secret is obviously that I just try and imagine I’m in the ocean and I’ve got a 4,5 meter Great White Shark at my feet. It’s definitely good motivation to swim fast. That shark turned my life around for a reason, and I’ve got to make the best of all my opportunities now.
Du Toit says he is a symbol of motivation:
It’s been great to see Achmat do better and better in the last couple of years. I think he’s become a role model because people look at him and wonder how they would cope in that situation. He’s just gotten on with it and kept going.
Hassiem on the attack earlier this year:
Later this week, Hassiem will swim in the 100m and 400m freestyle events.
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