Achmat Hassiem

From Open Water Swimming Wiki

Achmat Hassiem (bor 6 May 1982 in Cape Town, South Africa) is an open water swimmer, competitive swimmer, life saver and shark attack survivor from South Africa. In 2006, his right leg was severed by a 4.5m great white shark during lifesaving training.

Swimming Highlights[edit]

  • He has competed multiple times at the aQuellé Midmar Mile in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa.
  • He competed at the 2008 Beijing Paralympics in the S10 classification. He finished 6th in the preliminary heats in the 100m backstroke.
  • He competed at the 2012 London Paralympics S10 classification. He competed in the 100m butterfly and the 100m and 400m freestyle, taking a bronze in the 100m butterfly, setting a new African record of 57.76 seconds in the final.

TEDx Talk[edit]

Impossible is nothing, possible is me at TEDxSeaPoint in 2012.


Additional video here on MSNBC.

Achmat's Story[edit]

Achmat Hassiem did something so heroic, so unbelievable, so humbling that it is hard to explain.

The former lifeguard from Strandfontein Village in Cape Town, South Africa literally lost his leg when he jumped in front of a Great White Shark in order to save his younger brother. "It was my job to help my brother."

Achmat speaks from his heart with such clarity that his motivational speeches are spellbinding. His harrowing, life-altering experience dramatically tells the story about when he purposefully created a distraction to direct the shark away from his brother.

"I thought I was going to jump on its back, but the shark got hold of my right leg and I could heard my bones going to pieces. I thought to myself, 'There's no way I'm going to survive,' but I was punching and fighting as best I could. Later, my brother helped me [survive] as he pinched my veins in order to help stop the bleeding [after being dragged underwater for 75 meters]."

The Aftermath[edit]

A brave soul to be sure, a man with a mission, but it did take Achmat some time to get back in the water. Once over the natural fear, he is now swimming in all kinds of open water events and taking his message internationally.

As the next step in his young life, Achmat has a new passion along with 8 other individuals who are well aware of the importance of sharks to the marine ecosystem. They are pushing to improve how fish stocks are managed worldwide, including shark species of which nearly 33% are threatened with extinction or or on the verge of being threatened.

Pew Environment Group[edit]

Deborah Salamone, like Achmat, was also attacked by a shark and is a member of the Pew Environment Group, explained, "If a group like us can see the value in saving sharks, can't everyone?"

Achmat, Deborah and their colleagues from the Pew Environment Group visited the United Nations last year in an effort to lobby for new protections for sharks. Currently, international restrictions are in place for only three shark species: basking, whale and white sharks.

Paul de Gelder of Australia who lost his right hand and right lower leg in a shark attack explained the group's perspective, "Do we have the right to drive any animal to the brink of extinction before any action is taken? Regardless of what an animal does according to its base instincts of survival, it has its place in our world. We have an obligation to protect and maintain the natural balance of our delicate ecosystems."

External links[edit]