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The Incredible Story of Spain’s Blind Swimmer, Enhamed Enhamed | Against All Odds

The Incredible Story of Spain’s Blind Swimmer, Enhamed Enhamed | Against All Odds


In my mind, I always see pools
from a corner, from one side. I always have that image,
with lane ropes in the middle. I also see the starting blocks
with all the numbers. I chose swimming mainly because it was the only place
where I felt good. I got where I am
because I was very tenacious, and above all because I dreamed of being able to be like
everyone else. I didn’t accept I was blind
until I was 19. The world of the Olympics taught me
that with real training, dedication and the right people
you can achieve anything you want. I was born in Las Palmas de
Gran Canaria in 1987. In my early years, my parents
decided to take me to Laayoune, in Western Sahara, or Morocco,
or however you want to call it. And I spent there
the first six years of my life. The condition I had was glaucoma. I lost the vision in my left eye
when I was one and a half and my right eye was stable
until I was seven, when my eye pressure started to
change. Then your eye pressure
is too high or too low. In my case it was low pressure. He’s always been a quiet kid,
very creative. He always played alone, because other children didn’t
understand him. As a kid with eyesight problems, relating to other kids
was kind of difficult. My parents decided to go back
to Las Palmas when I was six so I could get an education, because visually impaired kids couldn’t go to school
where we were living. – Enhamed, darling.
– What’s up? – Oh, my God, you’re so tall!
– It’s been ages! – Oh, dear.
– How are you? – Good, and you?
– I remember this same voice. – The same voice?
– Yes, this same voice. But you’ve grown so much.
I see you on TV and you don’t… Last time you saw me
I was like this. Yes. Really small. I could never forget,
someone knocked at the door and a child came in
with his parents. It surprised me, I thought he was
from the Canaries or at least Spanish-born, then they started speaking in Arab
and I couldn’t understand a thing. I got very nervous
because I also saw he had… It seemed there was some problem
with his vision, but back then I
didn’t know it was so bad. Let’s go to the classroom.
It’s been 20 years. – This is your old classroom.
– Amazing. To your right, let’s see. Even
the smell will be different, but… – Not really.
– No? – It’s still very similar.
– OK, come in. Let’s see. There is another distribution
because now it’s for pre-schoolers. Oh, OK. So you won’t be able to remember
because it’s very different now. – You would stand over here.
– Right, right. Mari Carmen was essential
during those two years. She taught me Spanish
and I still remember one day we were in class
and she started to explain addition, then multiplication, and she said, “You’ll get there,
but it’s kind of like this.” I remember that moment as if
I had suddenly discovered something. In fact, when I went blind,
my first refuge was numbers. He always wanted to learn more. He was really fast at mental
calculation, at everything. I remember the transition, a moment when I couldn’t read the
words on the blackboard like before. That’s when I started feeling
that something wasn’t right. I started seeing black spots and that happens when your retina
has a lot of problems. Back then the doctors said that he shouldn’t move too much. He was not allowed
to play like other children or to jump. He had to be
very careful. One day I was playing with my
brother, and my mom said, “Stop running,
you know what might happen.” When I lay down, obviously doing what I was told, I closed my eyes and when I opened
them I couldn’t see anything. I didn’t tell my mom until
the next day. I said, “Mom, I can’t see,”
and then we went to the hospital. I felt extremely sad. I had one blind son,
and now another. It hurts when your son
goes blind so young. It hurt me enormously. After losing my vision
I used to do lots of calculations. If my brother went blind at this age and developed schizophrenia
at this age, then if I went blind at eight, I would have to deal with
schizophrenia at 14 or 15. It came as a shock to me, when the boy lost the little sight
he had left. I couldn’t believe it. There are three steps to your right. Oh, right, we used to sit here. And then you would run
from here to that wall. If you want to run…
You don’t, right? I’m more cautious now. Let’s see the distance between here
and the other side where you ran. Remember, everyone would say
“don’t run”. Do you know I’ve kept your
notebooks? – Seriously?
– Yes. I have them right here. I want you to touch them
and give them to your mom and dad. Touch them, here they are. Your Spanish notebook and your math
notebook. Wow, why did you keep them? Because you were always
special to me. You were a very special student
and, when I left the school, I couldn’t throw them away,
so I took them with me. I always wonder how you did these
so well with such poor eyesight. Wow. I’m getting emotional, really. Yes, I took them home and I didn’t
think I could return them to you. I can’t believe it. I don’t know if you remember,
but I always told you, “You are going to achieve whatever
you want,” and I’m glad that’s what happened. When he went away I was really sad. He was going to a school
for blind students and he didn’t think of himself
as blind. It was harder on him
than it was on us. We knew he was going to have
a better education that would bring him
more opportunities. I was lonely. Really, really lonely. It’s really weird at first. You are alone with your classmates
and your caregivers. They are not your parents,
they are caregivers. Thankfully, I met Ramón. Keep your feet close to each other. I used to work at the ONCE pool,
in Madrid. I started at the school in 1996. There were extracurricular
activities and then he started swimming. That’s when I met him. A little lower, that’s it. It was great. I went to his home every weekend. Thanks to him I was able to keep
riding a bike, he explained what
a surfboard was… He used to take me to the lake,
but I didn’t really enjoy kayaking. When we did it, I used to get
into the kayak and then fall into the water,
immediately. One of the things Ramón taught me
from the beginning was that I could do the same things
as anyone else, but I had to discover my own method
and put a lot more effort into it, but I could make it work. Do you know how I rode a tricycle? Instead of sitting on it,
I stood on it, like on a scooter. And, of course, the school had
a fence. On the slopes, the ramp. The one that led to the running
track. They never closed that fence
except on that Saturday. I went down at full speed, hit it
and fell on my back. I hurt myself here. We went to the hospital and the
nurse said, “What happened?” “I was standing on a tricycle
and fell.” She turned to my caregiver and
asked, “He’s blind, right?” The wind is getting stronger.
Can you feel it? – Yes.
– Yes? It’s very noticeable. If there is wind,
you’re the one in charge. Yes, but maybe that’s
too much blind trust, mate. He liked swimming because he didn’t have to depend
on anyone to move. He told me, “Sure I can run, but if I run
I’m going to need a guide,” same for biking.
“But I can swim all by myself.” I still remember all the time
we spent together in the water. He taught me exactly
how to move my hands, my feet. As your hand enters into the water you have to try not to create
bubbles. You have to “cut” the water,
almost caressing it. The swimmer must be aware,
by listening to videos, of the sound made by the hand. The difficulty of teaching
a blind person to swim… Someone who hasn’t been
able to see… He could see until age six or seven. Someone who hasn’t seen a butterfly
stroke, how do you explain that? Butterflies are insects…or crawl,
freestyle. What is front crawl?
Backstroke, breaststroke… These are abstract concepts. And the problem is
to teach them how to swim. I’m not even talking about
competing. Enhamed was a really fast learner. You could explain anything to him, show him and get into the water
with him and he knew what to do instantly. That was one of his best qualities. I’ve said a lot of times,
“You have to lift your head sooner.” He lifted his head sooner. You say the same thing to another
swimmer, and again the following day,
over and over, and he never gets it, but Enhamed did it, just like that. He wanted to learn quickly how to
swim. He didn’t settle for less. He was very ambitious,
even as a child. His swimming at the school
was interesting. He used to hate water before and then he started loving it. That’s when I came back
from Madrid to the Canary Islands and then reality struck me. High school is not like
a blind school. You’re no longer Enhamed,
you’re the blind guy. It was really hard. I don’t remember
someone with a low self-esteem… ..but someone
who wanted to blend in. I always remember his body language, standing straight,
running through the hallways and I was like, “No, no, no.” Everyone getting out of the way
because he was really direct. He knew what he wanted,
he trained every morning… I think there’s a mailbox
or an electrical box ahead. – Yes, you’re right.
– I used to hit it every day. Some days I went to the pool with a
scrape on my chest from that thing. I’ve always been very watchful. I can’t see you,
but I hear you. She talked to me
like she talked to everyone else, exactly the same way. He sees a lot of things
that I don’t. Every time I’m with him
I’m more sure of that. There are many things I don’t
perceive and he does, somehow. – Your house was blue-green, right?
– Yes, like the sea. Like the shirt
we wore for PE in high school. – That’s right!
– Do you remember? How can you remember that? Because I always had to remind my
mom, “Get me the turquoise shirt.” It’s the same colour, I swear. How can you remember that?
You are amazing, really. Even after you become blind,
your brain keeps visual memories. I still dream with images. When I know someone well,
I imagine their features. My mom, my dad, my siblings… for me, they look the same
as 20 years ago. Obviously, they’re fine with it
because they’re always young. I met Oliver Rivera
after one year training in the swimming pool
of the Las Palmas swimming club. After one year I chose Oliver because
we needed a really strict coach. That’s when I became a real swimmer. Before that, I was just an amateur and thanks to Oliver and the club
I learned how to be a swimmer. – They’re still the same.
– Oh, this slope. Oh, my God, it’s exactly the same
starting block, sometimes I stood on it
and it was blazing hot, or wet. Wow. I ran into it more than once
with my leg and really hurt it. He may have been overprotected
up until then and I had to scold him
when he did bad times. If his technique was wrong, I told him, and if he didn’t try
hard enough I scolded him, I shouted when I had to. I treated him like I treated
everyone else. I remember one day
we were doing laps, the water was cold, I was very tired
at the end of the day. I reached the wall
and he didn’t tell me my time. He said, “You shouldn’t have come for this
shit, you’re wasting my time.” I remember he gave the starting
signal, I started swimming, while tearing up. But what was I going to do?
Leave? That really affected me and since then, January 2, 2002,
to September 30, 2004, when I went to Athens
I didn’t miss a single training day. I went swimming, no matter what,
every day. In lane two, representing Spain, Enhamed Mohamed. He had already competed in several
world and European championships but this is nothing like that,
it’s overwhelming. It’s not a European or a world
competition. The stands hold…300, 500, 1,000
people. You get to the Paralympics
and there are 18,000 people. He doesn’t see them, but just hearing the noise
can be scary. When I won my first medal
in 400-metre freestyle by one hundredth,
it was a bronze medal. I didn’t really enjoy it. It was my first medal
in the Paralympics but I wasn’t overjoyed,
it was a bittersweet moment, because I won that medal from
Miguel. I came in third
and he came in fourth, but I knew he was unlikely to win
another medal in those Paralympics and those were his last Paralympics. Do you know
what surprises me the most? The 400 freestyle in Athens. It brings me closer to you
than other things. Seeing that…just one hundredth. What’s one hundredth to you? Miguel taught me a lot in Athens. Those were my first Paralympics and all my team mates said
“Your first Paralympics, “being on the starting block,
not talking to your coach, “no communication with the outside “and being where everyone loses
the races.” But Miguel was focused and, more importantly, he had
something few other swimmers have – when he went into the water
he gave it all he had. I remember, in Athens, one hundredth of a second to
the bronze and I wasn’t sad at all. He was my friend, my team mate, he had trained harder than me and this was a medal he won,
not one I lost. Do you know something
I’ll never forget, man? When we were in Athens and you told me
“Enjoy this moment, “because victory has a thousand
fathers but defeat is an orphan.” And that’s so true, man,
that’s what you said – “If you don’t do so well
in a competition the next time, “there won’t be anyone there,
so enjoy this moment.” – And you saw I was right?
– Absolutely. Checked. After Athens I started studying
psychology in Madrid. I got a scholarship for the
high-performance training centre. It was perfect – it all came
together so I could stay in Madrid. I had a big crisis for two months, I hadn’t improved at all,
my girl broke up with me, I was getting bad grades
for the first time in my life… I had been living my blindness from the perspective
of a seeing person, someone who wants to see once more, who thinks being blind is
a nuisance. Then something clicked and that’s when I started training
really hard. That’s when I thought,
“I want to break a record. “How? No idea.” I thought if I wanted a 5 I’d probably get a 3 or a 4,
so I’ll go for a 10. Six months later,
on August 2, 2007, at Sao Paulo, Ramón came with me to that
world championship because Ana Belén,
my coach, couldn’t make it. I had never been in an international
competition with Enhamed. I swim 100 metres
and when I touch the wall a team mate comes and says
“world record”. I was very happy
I could be there at that moment. Imagine teaching a child how to swim… ..and, ten years later, seeing that child
breaking a world record. A 15-year-old record. I try to think about it from his
perspective and I get emotional. That was my contribution, my gift and my way of thanking him. I don’t know if he understands that
I’ve always wanted to thank him, but…it’s true. I think the Beijing Paralympics was when Enhamed found his true
potential and really triumphed. I remember when I entered the pool,
in the Water Cube. I thought, “This is amazing!” In Athens he was still a kid, he was young
and not even fully developed. In Beijing he was a beast, his
chest, his shoulders, his abs… I won the 100m butterfly stroke
final of Beijing 2008 time and again in my mind. I would get up at four
in the morning to watch him compete on television. When I went into the water
and finished the race I realised it had been perfect,
I knew I had won. It was spectacular,
a truly perfect race. The butterfly stroke,
lifting your arms, then your head, over the lane lines. It’s hard to stay in the middle
and Enhamed nailed it, he swam the 100 metres
on the middle. With a good butterfly stroke, when you lift your arms and move them in front of you,
over the water, you’re on the surface and you feel
the water below your body, you almost feel like you’re flying. It’s an indescribable happiness. Enhamed went down in history
at Beijing 2008, it was unbelievable – four gold medals and
exceptional results, amazing for the team and for him
and of course for me, as his coach. It was really special, ending a cycle
of so much hard work and thinking… “Dude, the thing you wanted to
achieve, “completely out of reach,
you did it.” I told him, “You’re amazing,
you’ve done something amazing.” Enhamed was finally acknowledged
by his athletic feats and not his disability. There wasn’t a moment of my life
I would’ve wanted to see. If I have to pick one, it may be my mom’s face
when I came from Beijing. A journalist asked her,
“Are you proud of your son?” It was the first time I heard my mom
tearing up and she said, “Yes.” I’d like to have seen her face
at that moment. After Beijing, I started to think
about changing my life and I started to work
as a motivational speaker, then as a coach. Did I keep training? Yes. Was I still a swimmer? Of course, but just
as a side activity. If I learned something from sports it is that you cannot ride
two horses at the same time – you focus on one thing or the other. He worked really hard
but maybe not hard enough and maybe that’s why his results
at London were not as good. Two silvers and a bronze. After getting four golds,
accepting that result is very hard. He quit swimming
because he needed new experiences, he needed different challenges. At first I thought the Ironman
and the Spartan Race were impossible and when I think so, it gets stuck in my mind until
I find a way to do it. – That’s it! That’s it!
– Come on, boys! With him you can’t stop talking. You have to tell him
there’s a road, a step, something to jump over
or crawl under, always talking. We were running
and a boy asked his dad, “Why are those men
running together?” and he answered, “One is blind
and the other is guiding him.” That boy will always have a different perception
of blind people. He says that often. You’re not aware
of what you’ve done. But we’ve done it.
I trusted you and you trusted me, pure and simple trust. You’re so focused on not failing your partner,
you forget everything else. I think this has been the least
painful challenge I’ve had. I haven’t thought
of anything else… I’m sure I’ll never enjoy a
triathlon like this one. When someone doesn’t think I’m blind I feel flattered. People forgetting your blindness,
that’s gratifying. Not towards me, but towards everyone who has
helped me during these years, because that was our goal. Everything I’ve done,
I’ve done partly for my brother Deh. He hasn’t been able to choose, whether to stay on the couch
all day, whether or not to train, whether or not to study,
because with his schizophrenia he can’t choose anything at all. When I’m tempted to give up
or I want to have an easier life I think, “Why? You can, at least,
keep living.” Some people have accused me
of wanting to live too fast and I’ve realised that, indeed, I want to live my life,
as well as my brother’s life.

20 thoughts on “The Incredible Story of Spain’s Blind Swimmer, Enhamed Enhamed | Against All Odds”

  1. 妹妹的鲍鱼不但有毛还有水,想看鲍鱼的加妹妹薇:yk2574。。。。。。。 romc

  2. Excelente video! Gracias por intentar sensibilizar y humanizar a la gente respecto a las personas con discapacidad visual o cualquier otra discapacidad. Hay talentos ocultos en este tipo de personas, tal cual es el caso de Enhamed. Dios le bendiga!

  3. Que buenos estos videos porque uno desconoce mucho y la verdad me emocioné bastante,me encantó el señor que le enseñó a nadar y le dedicó el récord del mundo

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