Shireen Sapiro already had the makings of a professional swimmer when, at the age of 13, she was struck by a speedboat propeller while water skiing on the Vaal river and suffered life-threatening injuries.
Sapiro had already received provincial colours at the time of her injury, and was soon back in the pool as swimming formed a key part of her rehabilitation. Sapiro set a new South African record in her first gala as a disabled athlete, and after a strong showing at the South African National Aquatic Championships in Durban in 2006, she set a new world record in the 50m backstroke in 2007. With that, she’d booked her place at the 2008 Beijing Paralympics.
There, she won a gold medal in the 100m backstroke, and as well as attempting to defend her crown this time round she’ll also be competing in the 100m butterfly and 50m freestyle.