AthleteI'm Achmat Hassiem. I lost my leg to a great white shark. Now I’m a Paralympian competing in the 2016 Rio games and an advocate for shark conservation. AMA!
Jun 30th 2016 by achmathassiem • 15 Questions • 3673 Points
My short bio: Ten years ago, I met a great white shark who took part of my leg with her when we parted. That experience changed my life—for the better—by helping me get where I am today. At the 2012 Paralympics in London, I won a bronze medal for South Africa in the 100-meter butterfly. Now I’m getting ready to compete again in Rio de Janeiro.
I also work to save sharks. Since 2010, I’ve traveled the world advocating for shark conservation with The Pew Charitable Trusts. I’ve visited the U.N, the US Capitol, and have met with government leaders in countries across the globe. My next stop (after the Paralympics in Brazil) is closer to home: this fall I’m going to speak to government officials at CITES. They’re gathering to discuss global trade protections for endangered species—including thresher and silky sharks and mobula rays.
Edit: This was my first Reddit AMA, and it was pretty fun! Thanks for your questions, and don't forget to root for me (#sharkboy) in Rio!
in all honesty i did not feel any pain during the encounter, i was more in shock to actually think about pain. Guess my adrenalin just took over
personally, i find obstacles in everyday things, such as just going to play soccer with my mates/ friends and even just going to the beach and going for a open ocean paddle.
I have read many stories of people hunting down sharks especially in the aftermath of an attack. As someone who had a close encounter with one and now a strong advocate of shark conservation, what can you say about that?
You are an inspiration and good luck in Rio!
Getting attacked by a shark is traumatic…I can understand how someone is angry after that experience. but I didn’t get mad. The experience changed my life for the better! And I learned how much sharks are vital for health of the ocean, so killing them I don’t think is ever the right answer
First off, congrats on making the Paralympics! What is the most important thing you have learned from this entire experience? And how will it impact you going forward?
Thanks for doing the AMA!!
Thank you so much. I learned so much about sharks – so few people know how many sharks are killed every year…at least 100 million sharks die every year at the hands of humans. I also was not aware that so many sharks have live babies, and only a few every year, or every two years. So it’s pretty much impossible for them to recover the losses they suffer. AND, most importantly…I learned that without sharks in the ocean, the ocean’s food chain would be broken and our oceans ecosystems would be thrown off balance. So we have to protect sharks! oh…and of course, it proved to me that I am capable of overcoming anything with the right attitude.
Do you have any worries about attending the Rio Olympics and how are you preparing for them?
No worries at all, as a professional athlete, we need to minimize as much stress as possible and focus on the goal at hand which is to bring back the gold home. I train swimming 8 times a week, and gym 6 times per week, also diet is the most important thing, which is also my hardest :)
What conditions are you speaking about specifically? As team south africa we have been given no warnings just yet...
Have you, or plan to see the new movie "The Shallows"? And what is your take on why the human population is so hellbent on making sharks appear to be bloodthirsty monsters when time and time again studies prove they are not as aggressive as previously deemed?
edit: also good luck in rio! Be safe and wear tons of bug spray!
i think i might see it. People love stories with heroes and villains, and sharks make great movie villains. But like you said, in real life, sharks aren’t monsters and they make the ocean healthier. It’s important for me to get this message out about sharks so that people can learn to tell entertaining fiction from reality
What are the things you find easier without having a part of your leg?
Good question, certain sleeping positions, not having to worry about a snake biting me on the right leg as i hike through nature and also makes me 2kgs instantly lighter when racing ;)