Swimmer Aaron Zweig triumphs in the face of adversity

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 04 August, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 04 August, 2013, 3:30am

In 2004, seven-year-old Aaron Zweig was on life support in Grantham Hospital, having had his right leg amputated as he fought a rare viral illness.

After overcome the virus he took up swimming, which helped build up his strength to walk. Nine years on he is competing for Hong Kong in international events such as Israel's Maccabiah Games last month.

Swimming, Aaron says, is his "home away from home".

Now 17, Aaron won a silver and a bronze at the games in Jerusalem. Also known as the "Jewish Olympics", it is an international event involving able-bodied athletes as well as those with physical and intellectual disabilities. Like the Olympics, it is held every four years.

His silver medal came in the 50 metres butterfly and his bronze in the 100 metres backstroke.

Aaron began swimming after becoming an amputee because his father, David, believed it was the sport in which he would be least disadvantaged.

"But I don't think my dad knew how far I would take swimming," Aaron said. "Swimming to me is not all about winning my races and competitions. It's about showing people that I can go out there and do what I love and, therefore, why shouldn't they? To me, winning is just a bonus."

It was swimming that gave Aaron the strength to walk using crutches and do many other activities he wouldn't have had the strength to do if not for the training he did in the pool.

"Mentally it gives me a place to go when I need to think about my life and feel good about myself," he said. "It also supplies me with the discipline and determination that I'm sure I will need in many other things in my future."

Hong Kong's other big winner at the Maccabiah Games was another swimmer, Ana Scherer, who won four gold medals and two silver medals in the non-paralympic masters category for 40- to 44-year-olds.

Scherer was a world-class athlete in the 1990s. She was a member of the Brazilian national team and was South American record-holder for 12 years in the 50 metres backstroke, 100 metres backstroke and 200 metres backstroke.