THE year 2006 will undoubtedly always be etched in South African man Achmat Hassiem’s memory following a horrific shark attack incident near Cape Town, which saw him lose a leg.
However, the 30-year-old is hoping that the upcoming Paralympic Games in London will undo some of his heartbreak, and is currently training intensively for both the 100m and 400m freestyle races, as well as the 100m butterfly.
Hassiem, who was 24 when the attack occurred at Muizenberg beach, suffered a severed leg after he drew the 4.5 metre great white shark from his brother, Taariq.
The former lifeguard explained to the BBC that he bravely started to “drum” the water until the shark became distracted from his brother, who was just 17 at the time, and instead moved towards his direction.
“As you know, it’s obviously the job of big brother to look after little brother,” Hassiem said. “I told the lifeguards to pull my brother out of the water.”
“The next thing I knew the shark grabbed me at the lower half of my right leg, continued to thrash me around and pulled me underneath the water for about 50m.”
The South African is now ranked in the top three in the world for his event, which is a phenomenal achievement, and a true testament to his battling character.
Following Hassiem’s life-changing attack, he bravely found the courage and strength to participate at the 2008 Paralympics in Beijing, but is already feeling excited about the upcoming London Paralymics, with the opening ceremony taking place on August 29.
“I was in Beijing,” he said. “When I walked out to the pool deck, hearing all the people cheering brought tears to my eyes. I can just imagine what London is going to sound like.”
“The most important thing was the life of my brother. To lose a leg is nothing. Good things have happened to me since then – today, I’m a Paralympian,” Hassiem finished.