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10 years on from shark attack that took his right leg, Achmat Hassiem wouldn't have it any other way

He's the swimmer who lost his leg in a shark attack and remains grateful for the experience.

South Africa's Achmat Hassiem looks back on that day just over 10 years ago as a turning point on his life. And one that's only for the positive. He's continuing to devote the rest of his life to environmental conservation and causes that support the protection of the great white shark.

Hassiem has been at the Paralympics before, winning a bronze in his 100-metre butterfly category in London.

This time, in his farewell, he finished well out of medal contention in the same event. But after the race, the smile was entrenched on his face.

"To be part of the Paralympic movement is an extreme honour for me," Hassiem, 34, told Fairfax Media.

"Believe you me – I have one leg but I'm inspired so much by these [other] athletes.

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"Some of them are well more disabled than what I am, but yet they achieve feats that I can only dream of.

"For me the Paralympics are summed up in one word: inspiration."

In was in August 2006 that everything happened. He and his brother were training to become lifeguards off the Cape Town coast.

Hassiem noticed a massive shark under the surface that was beginning to circle his sibling. He managed to lure the great white away from him by slapping the water with his hand. So, the shark turned on him instead.

Right now, there's nothing but gratitude.

"The shark has given me so many opportunities, opportunities to represent my country, to change the world. It took me from being a little kid with dreams to actually being a little kid who has achieved all those dreams," Hassiem said.

The shark has given me so many opportunities, opportunities to represent my country, to change the world. It took me from being a little kid with dreams to actually being a little kid who has achieved all those dreams.

"I have become a shark advocate because it is my way of thanking her for giving me everything I have achieved today."

During his rehabilitation he was visited by legendary South African para-swimmer Natalie du Toit who pushed him into the water to train.

"We were friends long before we both lost our legs. We studied together," he said.

"She actually told me 'why don't you get in the water and see what you can do'.

"I took to the water like a shark in the ocean, just breaking records, setting continental records, and doing my country proud, especially in London 2012."

The conservation work he does now is extensive and varied, along with, unsurprisingly, motivational and public speaking.

You get the feeling he will be a positive role model for impaired athletes for some time yet.

"The only way I can thank that shark for giving me this opportunity to represent my country at these major, major events like world championships," Hassiem said.

"So the way I give back is by protecting sharks all around the world."