Enhamed Enhamed

Paralympic medalist

"The key to success is not motivation, but commitment".

The blind swimmer is passionate about learning how to be the person we want to be.

I've continued to be involved in sport since I retired after London 2012. I've done an Ironman contest, climbed Kilimanjaro and run a few marathons, among other activities.

I could see perfectly until i was eight years old, which is when the doctors told my parents that any sharp movement could leave me blind, because my retina might become detached. If you have children, you'll know that it's almost impossible for a child to stay still for more than a minute or two unless you're watching them. One day I was running home and my mother gave me a telling off. I fell over and closed my eyes, and when I opened them again five seconds later I couldn't see anything. When you find yourself in that situation, you have two options. You can either accept what society tells you, which in my case was that I couldn't do things the same as other people because I was blind, or fight. Basically, I didn't listen to what people told me. I continued to run around and fell downstairs, bumped into pillars, etc.

Later on, I became very frustrated. At around 13 or 14, I started to notice that I was different to everyone else. Up to that point, I'd thought I was the same as all the others and then, suddenly, I realized that my main characteristic was that I was blind. That's why I started to take swimming seriously, because it was my refuge. I started to train for two hours every afternoon when I went to school because I didn't have anything else to do. Then, my trainer convinced me to train for four hours. Six months later, after I had been to my first international championship, I started to train for nearly seven hours a day. This was how I spent my teenage years. I also had to go to school, sleep at school, study in school, sleep at school, etc. I was never a bad student for the simple reason that one thing was very clear to me: I have to learn, and I have to learn to do things differently to others because I can't do them the same as everyone else.

We all have three options. One, if you have to overcome some kind of adversity, you can sit still and wait for someone to resolve the issue for you. Two, you can start to take action in the hope that you will be able to achieve what life offers you based on your options. And three, you can negotiate with life by saying, "Look, I want this, I don't know what it will cost me or how much I'm going to suffer, but I'm going to try to get it".

I'm passionate about finding out how some people obtain a result while others don't. I want to know how we learn, how we can change the way we learn so we can become the person we want to be and, above all, how we can teach others to develop this potential which, in reality, is based on how we learn.

I've been really lucky in that my parents instinctively discovered that it does no good to protect people too much. The education I received always focused strongly on values, work, effort, perseverance and, above all, on firmly believing that you can achieve many of the things you want. Not everything (and this was pointed out to me), but a lot.

If I hadn't become blind, I wouldn't have made as much effort to get where I was. If I hadn't become blind, I wouldn't have looked for a way to keep improving. That's when I realized how lucky I was to be blind, because it was through my blindness that I had got where I was.

Pain, fear, sadness, frustration and all those types of emotions are part of life. We would not be able to feel happiness if we could not also feel sadness, as there would be no contrast. In my opinion, fear is one of the most important emotions we have. It tells you that you have to prepare yourself to confront a situation, because it could be something you overcome. You have to prepare better. That's the message transmitted by fear.

Motivation is overestimated. I think we've been sold the story that you do things when you're motivated, in other words, that you do things when you feel inspired. However, the key to success is to do things when you don't feel inspired. To get up when you don't feel like it and train when you aren't in the mood.

We are more conditioned to learn to lose than to learn to win. For me, it was much more complicated to learn how to win before the Beijing Olympics as I had to prepare myself mentally and find out what type of person I had to become. Then, once I had won, I had to learn how to keep grounded, which was more difficult than learning how to lose, as when you lose people always help you. However, winning can be quite lonely, as you're often surrounded by people who are only there because you've got a medal. Suddenly, there are all these people around who weren't there when you were feeling low. It's a lot harder to win and remain grounded, retain your values and goals and keep the same level of commitment. In the end however, both winning and losing are temporary.

Find out more about Enhamed Enhamed

Enhamed Enhamed is considered the best Paralympic swimmer of all time and has won 37 medals in his twelve-year career, including four Olympic golds. The sportsman continues to overcome boundaries by undertaking challenges like climbing Kilimanjaro and being the first blind person to swim the Strait of Gibraltar. His fundamental philosophy can be applied to life as well as sport.
What goes through your head when you win a gold medal or set an Olympic record?

The first thing is, “I did it!” Celebrating your achievement is part of it, you have to acknowledge what you did well. That's essential. In my case, I then always think about all the people who have helped me get there. This includes my trainer, biomechanist, physiotherapist, doctor, etc. Although swimming is an individual sport, you need a lot of people to support you, such as your family, friends and that team-mate you have who encourages you during training when they see you're giving everything you've got, but who might be your rival the next day. You think about all these people. For me, it was very special to hear the national anthem and know that the 17,000 people who were at the pool had got to their feet for it. The most important things are personal satisfaction, gratitude and pride.

"I'm passionate about finding out how we learn to become the people we want to be"

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