Six-year-old Bosnian Ismail Zulfic was born without arms and with a foot deformity and overcame his fear of the water to win a gold medal at a regional swimming competition.
At the competition in Croatia, Ismail was cheered on by members of his swimming club, set up by Amel Kapo to coach disabled swimmers, and by his parents, who drive him twice a week to Sarajevo, 70 km (45 miles) from their home in the central Bosnian town of Zenica for swimming lessons.
Ismail’s parents never dreamed their shy boy, who developed a fear of water after an incident in a rubber pool, would become a medal-winning swimmer. He could barely be persuaded into the water for therapeutic treatment for his back, which Ismail bends constantly to eat, write, use a joystick or fit on his swimming goggles with his feet.
But then he met Kapo, who set up the Spid swimming club more than a year ago after noticing that many disabled swimmers went to the pool without professional supervision. Kapo taught Ismail to swim.
“After a few months of practice Ismail was able to dive in and swim the length of the Olympic sized pool without any help,” Kapo said, explaining that the boy’s success was the result of mutual trust and Ismail’s determination.