|Achmat Hassiem and Shark Stanley in Washington, DC|
Achmat Hassiem lost a leg in 2006 during an encounter with a great white shark while he and his brother were training to be lifeguards. As Achmat distracted the animal so his brother could get into a boat, the shark attacked, dragging him underwater. Hassiem's brother grabbed his outstretched arm and hauled him aboard the boat to safety.
Undaunted by his injury and fitted with a prosthetic, Hassiem swam in the 2008 Beijing Paralympics and won a bronze medal at the 2012 London games. He has set numerous national swimming records in his native South Africa and in Africa and is the world champion for the Paralympics 200-meter butterfly.
Achmat continues to train and compete with his sights set on winning the gold at the 2016 Paralympics in Rio de Janiero.
We ask each of our Shark Ambassadors the same set of 5 questions. Here's what Achmat had to say:
Why are sharks important to you?
Sharks are our oceans apex predators. Not only are they awesome, powerful, and beautiful creatures, but they play an important role in keeping our oceans balance in order. Without Sharks our oceans cannot function properly.
How are we going to save the world’s sharks?
By creating awareness and creating and developing shark sanctuaries all around the world.
How are you working to protect sharks?
I am a shark attack survivor, and who better to speak for the protection of sharks than a shark attack survivor? My experiences with the attack and love for our oceans combined with motivation and conservation works well to push the message through for shark protection. Being known as “Sharkboy,” I use the media through my speeches as well as create awareness to our youth.
Lots of people look up to you, who are your conservation heroes?
My heroes are all those who make it their life’s work to protect our planet and the various species that call it home.
What advice would you give to young athletes?
Impossible is nothing, possible is you and me! Captain Planet said it best, “The power is yours!”