Meet Shams Aalam, a 33-year-old paraplegic athlete!

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shams aalam

Diving into deep waters, splashing it beside and moving forward countering the pressure, struggles, and sufferings to touching the final line- the battle of victory has never been an easy one. It takes a lot of courage, will, hard work and determination to be someone you always aspire to be. Often our life experiences of accidents and failures gives us chills to pursue our dreams, but it is these experiences that also teach us to fight and combat the will to success. One such man is Shams Aalam, a 33-year-old paraplegic athlete who have countered all the odds like a master and created an all new narrative of life! This is his story.

Shams Aalam, a man of courage!

A journey of Bihar to Berlin, Shams Aalam has made a history that isn’t an easy one to recreate. Born in a small village of Rathaus of Bihar situated at the border or Nepal, Shams had seen regular floods since childhood. He has to know swimming since it was essential for survival at an area which is often influenced by flood. Belonging to a family of sports, the young Aalam has always aspired to become a wrestler, however his parents had a different plan for him. They wanted him to get proper education and a well settled job, following which they sent him to Mumbai at the age of six. He went to Mumbai along with his elder brother and soon get involved with the cycle of life. He went to school and had a decent education, after which he completed his graduation in mechanical engineering and also landed up getting job at a prominent office.

“Swimming came naturally to us there. Everyone knew it. No one had to undergo formal training. It was a necessity, like walking. We had to know how to swim to survive. So, as a child, I never took it too seriously enough to consider a career in it.” Said Shams Aalam in a report by The Better India.

Though amidst this cycle of life, Shams Aalam lost touch with all the athletic practice he had, but as it is said “success knows no age”, he soon returned to sports. His will to become a wrestler soon took him to an academy where he learned wrestling. This inspiration came from his grandfather who was a master at sports. He being the role model for Shams made motivation accessible to him without any support. Kick-boxing and martial arts, this form of fighting was very dear to him as he has seen his grandfather practicing it every day, so he choose the latter. After ten year of hard work, management between work and passion, Shams was finally able to win a black belt. He also earned almost 50 medals at national and international levels. At 2010 Asian Games that was held in India, he competed and won a silver medal. For him it was a dream come true moment as he always wanted to represent and make his country proud on the global level.

However, life has a different plan for the young athlete. Just after the 2010 Asian Games, Shams Aalam felt a tingling sensation in the second toe of his left leg. For him it was a casual pain following the competition but in actuality it was something else in store. Soon he was unable to walk, climb or even stand properly along with pain and sudden contractions. An MRI report concluded that he had a well spread tumour in his spine, which was compressing his nerves. Life for him came to an end, his entire identity crumbled around him. As it was a mature tumour, he had to undergo a surgery on a fast note. The doctor promised that the surgery will only cause temporary paraplegia and that his leg will completely recover after few months. However, that never happened.  

Shams Aalam

Post operation in order to regenerate his nervous system, his doctor suggested him to go for swimming classes. So he went to a school near Dadar. At first seeing his conditions, the coaches denied entry but later on his persistent insist, they agreed to only let in with floaters. It was tough for Shams Aalam but more than that it turned out to be something that changed his life forever. Slowly with the passing time, he regenerated his nervous system, his body became friends with water and he learned getting balanced to finally let go the floaters.

On September 2012, Shams Aalam competed at the state swimming championship and end up winning a silver and a bronze medal. On December the same year, he was selected for the nationals where he won a bronze medal in the 50m category for paraplegic swimmers. Later in 2013, he swam across the Arabian Sea at Gateway of India and participated in a sea swim competition, unfortunately he didn’t won. Few years later, her participated in Navy Day Open Sea Swimming Competition under the differently-abled category. This time he set a world record by covering a breathtaking distance of 6 km in just 1 hour, 40 minutes and 28 seconds! This record earned him a place in the Limca Book of Records as the first person with paraplegia to complete a race in such a short time. This wasn’t enough for the man as he again himself broke his already set record as he swam across a distance of 8 km in 4 hours and 4 minutes along the Sinquerim-Baga-Candolim sea in 2017! And since then, there’s no stopping for Shams Aalam. He back to back bagged several accolades in his bag and created some of the most incredible world records.

The challenges Shams Aalam faced was never easy for a normal person to cope with. Giving his dreams, living with the fear of not walking again to countering all of them writing his own story, his journey is nothing less than motivation. Despite having a certificate, Shams believes he is not disabled and we couldn’t agree anymore.                

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