Help us make a difference!

Make Your Year-End Gift by Dec. 31st - your donation will be matched, dollar-for-dollar, and change more lives.

From Fierce Determination, An Unlikely Swimmer Becomes a Champion

July 31, 2012

Abdel-Rahman Hassan Al-Hemdan was determined to swim. Despite paralysis, despite slow progress, he made progress that amazed his father and later, amazed the world.

Hemdan is helped from his wheelchair into the pool.

Into The Water. Hemdan gets a hand entering the water at the 2007 Special Olympics World Summer Games in Shanghai.

A Desire to Swim

Ten-year-old Saudi swimmer, Abdel-Rahman Hassan Al-Hemdan, accomplished an unprecedented achievement for his country when he claimed two gold medals at the Special Olympics World Summer Games in Shanghai.

The young champion became the new prodigy of his country when he captured the admiration and applause of the Chinese spectators attending the competitions. Despite being half-paralyzed, he swam as gracefully as a dolphin.  The two gold medals came in the 25 and 50 meter races. 

On behalf of Abdel-Rahman, his father recalled how his son took on swimming. “It was a matter of coincidence,” Hemdan, the father said. “Abdel-Rahman’s brother Youssef, and some relatives were members of a swimming school. They used to train and I would take Abdel-Rahman with us to watch.

"Surprisingly, he used to keep asking me everyday to jump in the water, but I was afraid because of his disability, in addition to suffering from asthma. But Abdel-Rahman insisted, so I bought him a special swimming suit and started training him with the assistance of the coaches, and gathered info from the Internet and books about his condition." 



Hemdan sits in his wheelchair, medals around his neck, arms raised in triumph.

Triumph. Hemdan shows off his medals.

Steady Progress

"It took us a month until Abdel-Rahman was able to hold his breath underwater for three seconds. During his daily training, I tried to hide my fears in front of him. I was worried about his health condition.

"But, on the contrary, he was so patient and determined to succeed. I never found such will within athletes, even the non-disabled ones. It took him a whole year of training to cover a distance of one meter. Can one imagine how determined he was?

"The second step was covering a distance of ten meters and he continued until he reached such a level. And amidst all that, Abdel-Rahman maintained showing good performance in school." 



emdan receives certificate while he is seated and surrounded by well-wishers

At the World Games in China

"Recalling these days, that required hard training and follow ups, I thank God for everything. It was my dream for my son, and a message to show the world the real abilities of this intellectual disabled child. I’m so proud of him.

"It was a remarkable moment for Abdel-Rahman as the Chinese spectators cheered for him after winning the gold medals. He became a celebrity and everyone wanted to take snap shots of him and with him.

"The Chinese media named him ‘The Champ’ and his pictures were all over the covers of local magazines in China, in addition to making headlines in newspapers and TV news bulletins. He also received many gifts from fans, especially from the hotel staff who were some of his great supporters."


Work For The Future

"From my experience, I advise parents and families of the intellectual disabled athletes to work for their future. If we abled people sometimes suffer when facing problems, imagine the case if it involves a handicapped or an intellectual disabled.

"The Special Olympics athlete should start training at an early age, and learn to live within a disciplined schedule. It will enable him to gain self-confidence which is very important. Parents should also learn how to help their children mingle within the society.”

Finally, Hemdan believes that his son was able to convey the message of Saudi Arabia to the world which he himself couldn’t have been able to.

“I couldn’t have done it like him. He made us all proud. Whenever, the Chinese people saw him, they greeted him and called him ‘the Saudi Arabian’ in Chinese. Abdel-Rahman is the pride of our nation,” Hemdan proudly concluded.

His Life is Changed

Learning some things was hard, but football was his amazing talent.
Learn More ››


My Daughter

Her daughter taught her the meaning of love and patience.
Learn More ››



Your Donation Matters

Special Olympics transforms athletes’ lives through the joy of sport. Help us make a difference.

DONATE TODAY»

Volunteer Near You

Volunteering with Special Olympics is fun and very rewarding, for both the athlete and the volunteer!

LEARN MORE»

Follow Us

Help us reach out to one more athlete.

Donate »

Find events near you and learn about volunteer opportunities at one of our 226 worldwide locations.

FIND A LOCATION NEAR YOU »

Our Supporters

MicrosoftRevolutionizing information systems that power our games.Learn more »


Our Supporters

The Christmas Records TrustFunding Special Olympics work worldwide.Learn More »


Our Supporters

Annenberg FoundationSupports our goals for coaches’ excellence.Learn More »


Our Supporters

Bank of AmericaProud partner of Special Olympics.Learn More »


Our Supporters

Coca-ColaSpecial Olympics Founding Partner.Learn More »


Our Supporters

ESPNGlobal Presenting Sponsor of Unified Sports®.Learn More »


Our Supporters

EssilorOfficial global supplier of ophthalmic lenses.Learn More »


Our Supporters

AIPSGlobal Impact Partner for Special Olympics.Learn More »


Our Supporters

Lions ClubSupports access to quality eye care.Learn More »


Our Supporters

MattelSupports Special Olympics Youth Programs.Learn More »


Our Supporters

MTM RecognitionSupplier of awards and medals for our athletes.Learn More »


Our Supporters

Perfect Sense DigitalSpecial Olympics' leading digital partner.Learn More »


Our Supporters

Procter & GambleCelebrating over 30 years of partnership with Special Olympics.Learn More »


Our Supporters

SafewayRaises funds and awareness for people with disabilities.Learn More »


Our Supporters

SàfiloSupplies optical frames and sunglasses.Learn More »


Our Supporters

UNICEFProvides greater inclusion of children with disabilities.Learn More »


Our Supporters

Y&RPowering our global youth marketing campaign.Learn more »


Special Olympics Blog

Sport and Tech Team Up for Good

Now, thanks to Microsoft, athletes, coaches and families will have rapid access to useful information about their scores, times, personal bests, fitness and health. Special Olympics can use this capability to dramatically improve the lives of people in our Movement.  read more »

Posted on 2014-10-27 by Janet

go to blog »


*

Special Olympics - Become a Fan

Make Your Year-End Donation and It Will be MATCHED!

Make your year-end tax-deductible donation and help us get one more person onto the playing field.

Your gift will be matched dollar-for-dollar through Dec. 31.