If it wasn't for a shark attack some six years ago, South African swimmer Achmat Hassiem would not be competing in the Paralympics.
Hassiem and his brother were lifeguarding at a beach in Cape Town when Hassiem spotted a shark near his brother in the water. In an attempt to avert the shark, Hassiem slapped the water. Distracted, the shark swam over to Hassiem and bit into his right leg. Hassiem says he was dragged about 160 feet before he heard a snapping sound and realized his leg was gone.
After the incident, on a suggestion from South African Paralympic swimmer Natalie du Toit, Hassiem began training for the Paralympics. The shark is not only the reason Hassiem has become a Paralympic swimmer, it is also his motivation.
"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 told the AP. "It’s definitely good motivation to swim fast."
Hassiem was determined to top his ninth place finish in the men's 100-meter butterfly in Beijing. And he did. This weekend Hassiem finished third in that race and took home his first Olympic medal. He will also swim in the 100-meter and 400-meter freestyle races.
And despite all his misfortune, Hassiem has managed to remain positive.
"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."
(H/T to Off The Bench)