LONDON (AP) — Paralympic swimmer Achmat Hassiem uses special motivation to go fast: He imagines being chased by the great white shark that bit off his right leg.
The South African was attacked by a shark off the coast of Cape Town six years ago after he lured the great white away from his younger brother. Before then Hassiem had competed in various sports, including swimming, but wasn't sure what to do after losing his leg.
It was South African Paralympic swimming champion Natalie du Toit who encouraged Hassiem to get back into the water. Before long, he started breaking his country's Paralympic records.
"I took to the pool like a shark in the ocean," he said with a laugh.
The 30-year-old Hassiem came to the London Paralympics determined to do better than his ninth-place finish at the Beijing Paralympics four years ago. On Saturday, he won bronze in the men's 100-meter butterfly.
"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 said. "It's definitely good motivation to swim fast."
In 2006, Hassiem was the first to spot the shark when he and his brother Taariq were on a lifeguard exercise off a popular beach in Cape Town. He shouted to colleagues in a nearby boat to get Taariq out of the water, while Hassiem distracted the shark by slapping the water.