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Paralympian 'Shark Boy' ally of attacker

  • Paralympian 'Shark Boy' ally of attacker

    Paralympian swimmer Achmat Hassiem will devote his life to protecting the shark who took his leg.

Paralympian swimmer Achmat Hassiem plans to devote his life to protecting the great white shark who bit off his leg.

Dubbed 'Shark Boy', the South African bears no grudge against the 4.7m predator that severed his right foot in a deep-sea struggle off the coast of Cape Town eight years ago.

"She is called Scarlet. She is extremely massive now," said Hassiem.

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The London bronze medallist visits Scarlet every summer when she returns to the waters in which he was injured.

In February he was named a Global Shark Guardian by the United Nations Save Our Sharks Coalition, and plans pursue his conservation role full-time when he retires from competition after the Rio Games.

"Who better to protect them than me?" he said.

Hassiem, who took eighth position in the men's S10 100m butterfly final in Rio, likes to get his adrenaline pumping before a race by imagining Scarlet is right behind him in the ocean.

"I think about that moment when the shark is coming, that knock on your leg, when your senses switch on, everything activates and I see this massive fin comes out of the water," he said.

"Believe me, when I am in the water I am flying."

The 34-year-old was training to become a lifeguard off South Africa's Western Cape in 2006 when the shark appeared.

After seeing it circle his younger brother, Hassiem slapped the water's surface in a desperate bid to distract the predator.

Hassiem lost his leg below the knee as a result, an injury that transformed his life.

"The shark has given me so many opportunities, opportunities to represent my country, to change the world," Hassiem said.

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

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