Omar The Shark Slayer AbdelKader is a 26-year-old engineer, coach, and inspiration. Four years ago, Omar stared death in the teeth and chose to live; he had not built his legacy and was not ready to go just yet. He fought 2 very hungry sharks in an epic battle that left him with a second shot at life, one leg shorter, and a whole lot of memory scars.
During the summer of 2016, Omar goes on a swimming trip to El Ain EL Sokhna with his friends, where he is attacked by two sharks. He is rushed to Suez Hospital where he undergoes an above-knee left leg amputation, is later moved to Ain Shams hospital in Cairo, and finally travels to Germany to receive his prosthetics and relearn how to walk. After his return, Omar starts doing light workouts at home.
During the very first months of 2017, Omar joins Dell Technologies as a computer engineer then revisits the attack site for a quick swim later that month. In May, he joins his first group class at Ignite. Side by side, Omar and Hussein AbdelDaiem embark on a curious journey to test Omar’s limits and unleash his full potential through trial and error. Omar eventually upgrades to intermediate classes and self-training. With Hussein’s supervision, he starts taking performance training and TRX courses and becomes a certified trainer in both. Not too long afterwards, Omar starts his coaching career at Ignite. In November of 2018 Omar competes in ELFIT with his coach and teammate Khaled Azzouz. The 2 had been intensively training for 6 months and join the competition under the Superadaptive Standing division. Today, Omar is still recovering, testing his time and energy management skills, growing, and breaking boundaries.
What was the emotional recovery journey like?
It was hard at first, and getting to the right mindset took me some time. It’s during the first months that the importance of a support system becomes definitive; this is also why we make sure to visit people with similar accidents while they’re still at the hospital. Once I got my mindset right, it became easier for me to do things like taking my prosthetic off during group classes. I almost exclusively wear shorts now because I find that showing off my leg helps me through my acceptance journey and takes a jab at addressing the stigma in Egypt. To tackle my newborn fear of water and swimming, I started with pools and beaches, until I gradually built up the courage to revisit the attack site in 2017. It was by no means easy, but I knew I had to do it; I was not ready to let fear take over. Becoming an adaptive coach despite the stereotypes was pivotal to both me and my recovery. I struggle with recovery sometimes, both the physical and the mental. I also still occasionally make trips to Germany for my prosthetic. Sometimes it’s too much and sometimes I get overworked, but I almost always find a reason to keep pushing.
A survivor and an adaptive athlete, do you feel a sense of responsibility?
I was given a second chance to leave an impact, even if I didn’t plan it. After my accident, I would frequently get invitations for talks and TV interviews; I remember doing TEDx, MUN, AXA Insurance talks. People were interested and I was constantly offered a platform, so I felt the responsibility for sure. I do it professionally now and take it upon myself to raise awareness, send a message, and advocate for adaptive athleticism. I want to shed light on the community that is so dear to my heart and on adaptive athletes who are truly and utterly breaking boundaries yet never get their chance to shine. Understanding the true power of representation and inclusion is crucial, and it’s where sports brands can play a huge role. Signing Egyptian adaptive athlete ambassadors will definitely boost the process of raising awareness and hopefully breaking the Egyptian stereotype.
What piece of advice would you give everyone reading this?
Never struggle to fit into society’s stereotypes; focus on yourself, your standards, and your accomplishments. Enjoy the little things and value every blessing. Accomplish your dreams by setting small, achievable milestones. Finally, educate yourself, spread awareness, and support adaptive athletes.