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Thursday, February 17, 2011

Bravery In The Open Water - Achmat Hassiem, A True Hero

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 spell-binding.

He spoke with Open Water Source at the finish of the aQuellé Midmar Mile about his harrowing, life-altering experience 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].."

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.

Nine brave, compassionate, unbelievable people who have all been attacked by sharks.

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, Achmat 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."

Watch a video of the survivors here. Listen to their press conference here.

Video courtesy of Open Water Swimming LLC.

Copyright © 2011 by World Open Water Swimming Association

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Open Water Swimming Magazine

The Open Water Swimming Magazine is the monthly magazine entirely focused on open water swimming heroes and heroines of every age, ability, and background. Published by the World Open Water Swimming Association, the Open Water Swimming Magazine is a free benefit to WOWSA members.

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The Other Shore

The Other Shore follows world record holder and legendary swimmer Diana Nyad as she comes out of a thirty-year retirement to re-attempt an elusive dream: swimming 103 miles non-stop from Cuba to Florida without the use of a shark cage. Her past and present collide in her obsession with a feat that nobody has ever accomplished. At the edge of The Devil’s Triangle, tropical storms, sharks, venomous jellyfish, and one of the strongest ocean currents in the world, all prove to be life-threatening realities. Timothy Wheeler’s documentary brings Diana Nyad’s extraordinary adventure to life as Diana sets out to prove that will and determination are all you need to make the unimaginable possible.

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An almanac is essentially a body of knowledge which is so complete that it enables people in different fields to make predictions about the future of their respective industries.

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