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Up-Close with Achmat Sharkboy Hassiem

Achmat Hassiem, is the darling “Sharkboy” of our Nation. Great Olympian, motivator, overcomer and advocate for the very animal that almost took his life – the Great White Shark. His story is one of hope, bravery, honour, victory in the face of defeat, heroism, sacrifice and so much more.

Achmat is one of SA’s bright changemakers and he has the ability and determination to influence things for the better, not only with his sport, but with the way he lives his life. He is all about giving back and making the world a better place. He is also part of the United Nations’s World Sports Values Summitfor Peace.

What strikes me is his humility, joy and gratefulness at getting a second chance in life. He believes that he can change the world one person at a time. He has the heart of a leader and a true warrior who in a moment of life and death chose life, not his own life, but the life of his brother when he decided to get the shark’s attention focused on himself instead. This left him severely disabled. For competition he is categorised in the S10 classification, the classification for swimmers with the most physical disability. But daily he grinds and stives and overcomes! All the best as you set your sails for Rio Olympics 2016 Achmat!


Athlete: Bio / Stats
Name & Surname Achmat Hassiem
Nick Name Sharkboy
Date of birth 6 May
Place of birth Cape Town
Current City Cape Town
Height 1.94
Weight 85kgs
Shoe Size 12
Club Cape Dolphins
Coach’s Name Coach Brian Button
Out of Country events Competed at 2008 and 2012 Paralympic Games,

IPC Swimming World Champs 2010, 2013 and 2015 and other numerous international Invitational.

Secondary Sport/ sports None
Favorite City Cape town
Favorite Song/ type of music Catchy sing along songs and anything I can shake body to 😉
Favorite Movie Pacific Rim, any Marvel based movies like Avengers, and Animation.
School & Grade Matriculated Bergvliet High School.
Tertiary Inst Name/ Year Varsity Collage Class of 2006 and

Exercise Teachers Academy Class of 2009

Tertiary degree/ diploma International Marketing Management and Coaching Diploma
Sponsors Speedo, Osumo restaurants and Futurelife
Twitter and Instagram, facebook name Twitter and Instagram handle : @achmathassiem

Facebook : Achmat Sharkboy Hassiem Supporters Page

Web site
Community projects involved in National Brand Ambassador for the Hospice Palliative Care Association and I also work with kids with disabilities around SA.
Achmat Hasseim, a Paralympian from South African arrives at Terminal 1 of Heathrow Airport in London.

Achmat Hasseim, a Paralympian from South African arrives at Terminal 1 of Heathrow Airport in London.


Q: Your nick name  is Sharkboy – where does that stem from?

(Story can be found online for any more information needed on this question or the rescue itself).

On August 13th 2006, Muizenberg beach in Cape Town, during a routine lifesaving training exercise called “multiple patient rescue”; when we as lifeguards use a rescue boat to pick up many patients in the water that might need rescuing; my brother, and a teammate and myself were going to act as the patients that needed rescuing on that day. As we got into our positions, not more than 50m into the ocean, a 4.7m Great White Shark entered our training arena and was headed for my brother, Taariq Hassiem, when I made the brotherly decision to draw the sharks attention away from him and place it on myself. I screamed at the lifeguards on the rescue boat to get my brother out of the water as his safety was my number one concern.

That’s when the Shark grabbed me by the leg and dragged me out into the ocean. Underneath the water I fought for my life, and the Shark eventually clamped down, shook me underneath the water and broke my leg in two. I immediately swam for the surface, 70m from where I got pulled under, where my brother saw my splash for help and came rushing over to pull me to safety in the rescue boat. I was immediately airlifted to hospital where I woke up and found out that the lower half of my right leg was amputated. I kept a positive attitude in the hospital thanks to family and friends. The Doctor walked in during a media interview and said “how is my Sharkboy doing?” and the media thought it was extremely cool, and that’s how it got out into public. And I love the nickname, reminds me how valuable life and family is, and also makes me feel like a bit of a superhero.

Q: You are passionate and doing so well in your ­­­­­­­­swimming career, tell me a little bit about how you started in swimming and your journey in the swimming arena up to now?

My dream as a child was always to represent my country in sport. Natalie Du Toit was always a great inspiration to me as I always saw her in the media doing incredible things before her disability and after. We go as far back as knowing each other before our disabilities and even studied together. She helped me through my disability and introduced me to competitive swimming. “I took to the pool, like a shark in the ocean”. I began breaking records both nationally and internationally and in 2008 my dream came true when I represented South Africa at the Beijing Paralympic Games. Today I am still privileged and honored to live that dream of representing my country both nationally and internationally.

Q: What is the highest accolade that you have achieved in swimming and what is your greatest personal accomplishment?

Standing on the podium of the London 2012 Paralympics Games in the Mens S10 category 100m Butterfly final, winning a bronze in a new South African and African S10 record of 57sec.76.


Q: Do you have any specific regimens or rituals in swimming?

To help me relax before I race, I dance and sing to get me into the “racing zone”, as they say.

Q: What are your highlights of these travels outside of SA,  and what does travelling do for your mindset/ perspective on things?

The highlights of all these travels is being able to see different countries, meet new people, make new friends and of course, representing my country along my fellow teammates. Competing overseas lets you know how you fair amongst your competition and shows you where you are in your achieving your goals, and gives you the valuable international racing experience every athlete needs to compete at an international level.

Q: Represented Team SA, where did you go and how did you experience it?

I have been privileged to represent Team SA on numerous occasions, recently at the 2015 IPC Swimming World Championships in Glasgow, Scotland. I have been to Canada a few times, London, China, the Netherlands, Brazil, Mozambique, Germany, just to name a few, and every experience is amazing and an absolute honor just wearing the green and gold colors of Team SA.


Q: Beside your swimming what do you have a passion for?

I am a motivational speaker and I have a huge passion for motivating and helping my fellow South Africans and people all around the world both young and old, to go out there and live their lives to the fullest and to never give up on their dreams. I am also a Global Marine Guardian for the PEW Charitable Trust Team based in the United States, and my job is to protect certain species of marine life, by creating sanctuaries all around the world for their protection and safety. My main focus is the protections of sharks and rays. J

Q: Tell me one thing about yourself that the world does not know?

I have the biggest fear for Spiders!

Q: What do you do to relax?

I love going to the beach or hiking, nature is my guide to relaxation. I love the great outdoors.

Q: Which athlete/ athletes inspire you?

My Brother is a competitive lifesaver; his drive to become number one is something that I really admire. Also swimmers Micheal Phelps, Ryan Lochte and Roland Schoeman, the way they train and their determination is phenomenal.

Q: What is your personal favourite motivational quote?

“The more you sweat in training, the less you bleed in battle”.

Q: What is the best piece of advice you have ever been given?

“To just get from point A of your race, to point B as fast as u can” – Clinton G. – Sport Psychologist at the Sport Science Institute of South Africa


Q: Living away from home and travelling extensively is a sacrifice, in this situation, what does it feel like?  

The biggest sacrifice I make every time when travelling, is leaving my family behind. There are many times that I wish I had them with me to share the memories and moments.

Q: what grounds you – what becomes your touchstone to remind you that the sacrifice is worth it?

The drive to make my mark on the world, the drive to be a champion, the drive to be number 1!

Q: What is your biggest challenge, and what do you do to manage this challenge?

Being one of the most disabled athletes in my S10 racing category, my disability of being a below knee amputee, is my biggest challenge. Not having that 2nd foot to drive me through, really affects my start of my race, my underwater work and my ability to finish strong. The way I overcome this is to train harder, strengthen my upper body and one leg more, and ignore my disability and my opponents in my race. All I do is focus on myself, racing the clock and “getting from Point A, to Point B in my race, as fast as I can”.

Q: When an athlete hits some “hard / difficult patch in their sports career, what goes through your mind at that time? What advice can you give other young athletes in this regard?

To not give up and just push through. All athletes go through this point more than once, and I can honestly say that I have gone through my fair share of “down and out” moments, and when it happens, I just get back to my goals, refocus and push through.

Q: When you’ve had a tough / bad day, what lifts you up again?

Being a person who loves the outdoors, usually going for surf or swim in the ocean, and a hike or off road cycle in the mountains usually clears up my head quite well. Even just going to the gym and doing weights or a solid swim session in the pool helps.

Q: I’m sure you have many things going on right now, what’s to be expected next from you?

Currently I am training hard towards qualifying for the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games, where I am aiming towards bringing home the gold for my country, my family and my Coach.

Q: Anything else you would like to share?

Please follow my journey towards Rio 2016 by liking my Achmat Hassiem Supporters page, following me on Twitter and Instagram @achmathassiem and join the “TEAMSHARKBOY” revolution and lets aim for success together.  Live every second to fullest, and enjoy life!


Thank you so much for taking this interview. We would like to wish you all the best on the journey to Rio 2016. We look forward to following you as you go from strength to strength. Blessings!

NB – All images were supplied by the athlete to Heslop Sports. If there are any images that are not credited correctly, please email with the details and we will gladly do so immediately.


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