Walid Ahmed Abdel Kader Explains His Raison d’etre On WOWSA Live
David Whyte is an Honor Pilot inducted in the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame. Whyte retired after 25 years of piloting 305 English Channel swimmers from 32 different countries between 1984 and 2008.
Whyte has personally seen and escorted numerous incredible feats of endurance in difficult conditions, but one of the most unlikely successful channel crossings of his was with Walid Ahmed Abdel Kader, a disabled Egyptian who has one arm and one leg. Walid completed his 33.5 km English Channel crossing from England to France in 12 hours 59 minutes in August 1990.
Walid explains his story, “I had a terrible train accident that ultimately changed my life forever. In the accident, I lost my right leg and my left arm, permanently disabling me. I was in the hospital for over eight months.
I was approached by a disabled swimmer who advised me to talk to the head coach of the Egyptian national long distance swim team, Nabil ElShazly. Nabil told me that this would change my outlook on life and my disability. Long distance swimming gave me the determination to prove to the world and myself that you can overcome anything despite my disability.
After one year of the training and swimming, I went with a group of swimmers as part of the Egyptian national team to participate in swimming long distance in 1989. After accomplishing this long-distance swim, I started to believe that I could accomplish anything despite my disability.
In 1990 as a 19-year-old, I started to train harder to prepare to swim across the English Channel. I swam the English Channel with the dream that I would be the first person in history with only one leg and arm to swim across the English Channel. I swam the English Channel in 12 hours and 59 minutes under bad weather, high waves and severe currents.”
* growing up in Alexandria, a coastal city in Egypt
* losing his left arm and right leg after falling down in a train in 1987 at the age of 16
* talking to Captain Nabil ElShazly, an International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame Honor Swimmer, and getting excited to swim again
* being motivated to change the impression of how people looked at him through swimming
* joining the Egyptian national disabled swim team relay across the English Channel in 1989 in 10 hours 44 minutes at the age of 18
* feeling free in the water after his accident, changing his body position
* listening to ElShazly and how to overcome his accident
* getting motivated to swim solo across the English Channel
* believing completely in the faith of ElShazly
* training side-by-side with Nasser ElShazly and many top Egyptian swimmers
* arriving in Folkestone on August 15th with Mosad Saad, another disabled Egyptian swimmer who was missing a leg and finished his crossing in 13 hours 29 minutes
* starting his crossing of the English Channel at 8 am with only 2 choices: dying or crossing to Calais. He was the only person who crossed that day, finishing in 12 hours 59 minutes
* competing in the 1996 Paralympic Games and winning a silver medal in the 50m butterfly
* coaching handicapped swimmers and inspiring many young people because swimming gave him a raison d’etre (reason for life)
Walid also spoke about his training and the obstacles that he faces as a handicapped swimmer:
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