Three-time Paralympian Achmat Hassiem, a former Bergvliet High School pupil, was placed in a medically-induced coma, a fortnight ago following a spinal operation.
This has resulted in his family, his former school Bergvliet High and the swimming community asking everyone to keep him in their prayers.
The school’s principal Stephen Price posted on their Facebook page: “Past pupil, Achmat Hassiem aka Sharkboy, according to family, is in a coma in hospital right now and is struggling to come through a recent surgery. His family have called on those who know Achmat to pray for him.
“As a school we are proud of our Paralympic and Eco Warrior hero, winner of a bronze medal at the London Olympics, and we therefore call on the entire Bergvliet High community to lift him and his family up in your prayers”.
Mr Price said the school introduced a day of prayer last year, in response to the issues the community is facing. “We will, therefore, hold our second day of prayer (today) Thursday September 23. On this day our school flag will be flown at half-mast and our staff and learners will be asked to wear black.”
The day, he said, will start with appropriate readings from the Bible and Qur’an, representing the major religions of the school. This will be followed by a short time of personal prayer. No pupil or staff member will be required to participate but will be encouraged to spend some time in personal reflection.
The 39-year-old-Paralympic silver medallist lost the lower part of his right leg in 2006, following a shark attack, hence his nickname “Sharkboy”.
The incident took place when Hassiem was trying to save his younger brother Tariq during a lifesaving training exercise in Muizenberg.
To his credit, Hassiem, a member of False Bay Surf Lifesaving Club, didn’t sit back and feel sorry for himself after the attack. Instead, like a true champion, he saw the incident as a blessing in disguise, an opportunity.
He went on to represent the country in the 2008 (Beijing), 2012 (London) and 2016 (Rio) Paralympic Games.
He bagged his bronze medal in the 100m butterfly S10 final in 57.76 seconds, during the London games.
Prior to that particular race, he set an African record of 58.46 seconds in his heat to qualify for the final.
That achievement had his Strandfontein community contemplating having a mural painted on a wall at the time to remind people that Hassiem, the neighbourhood’s first Paralympic medallist, lives among them.