He broke the record for swimming more than 56 meters underwater with just one breath – and he did it with just one leg
The Egyptian swimmer is also the first one-legged man to swim across the Gulf of Aqaba. (PHOTO: Getty Images/Gallo)
Despite losing his leg in a motorcycle accident, Egyptian swimmer Omar Hegazy (31) has broken two Guinness World Records.
On April 1 this year, Omar set a new record for the longest underwater swimming distance with one breath, swimming 56.48 meters. He also broke the record for the longest underwater swimming distance with breathing with flippers, at a distance of 76.7 meters.
He has also swum the 220km Gulf of Aqaba, cycled over 400km from the town of Taba in the Sinai Peninsula to the Pyramids of Giza, and is an accomplished mountaineer.
He accomplished all these vital tasks with one leg.
Omar was starting his banking career in 2015 when he was involved in an accident that cost him his leg and almost killed him.
Omar admits he found it difficult at first to adjust to his new life, but found inspiration by reading about other disabled athletes. (PHOTO: Getty/Gallo)
After the amputation, Omar spent several weeks in hospital and struggled to relearn how to walk and perform daily tasks.
He spent three months in rehabilitation and he struggled to accept his new life. He and his fiancée also broke up and he became deeply depressed.
“My mental health was falling apart dramatically and I started having an identity crisis,” he says.
During this time he developed an interest in swimming and read about athletes such as Lebanese amputee Dareen Barbar who broke the Guinness World Record for the longest seated seat in a Samson chair, also known under the name of static seat on the wall, by a competitor.
The seated position consists of putting your back against a wall and maintaining the position until your thighs are parallel to the floor. She held it for two minutes and 8.4 seconds and became the first Arab amputee to enter the Guinness Book of World Records last year.
Omar also read the story of wheelchair user and diver Faisal Al Mosawi (37), who set the record for the fastest 10km scuba dive.
Faisal was in a car crate which damaged his spine and ended his ambition to become a football player. Like Omar, Faisal struggled with his new life in a wheelchair, but found freedom underwater.
“When I sit in my wheelchair, I feel like a bird in a cage. When I go underwater, I feel free. It’s as if the cage door had opened and I could fly,” says the diver.
Inspired, Omar set out to break a record.
“My source of motivation, at the start, is that I don’t have much to lose. I only started swimming because I was very angry. I found a way to express my anger and frustration, but that’s also where I felt truly free and capable.”
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“I hope these world record titles will inspire others and serve as a reminder that [something] amazing is somewhere near you, you just have to open your eyes wide,” he says of his accomplishments.
Sources: Guinness World Records, CNN, SI.com