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Swimmer With No Feet Given Chance at His Dream

Posted August. 01, 2009 07:33,   


Kim Se-jin is a 12-year-old swimmer who has no feet and only two fingers on his right hand due to a birth defect.

After years of searching for a swimming center that would accept him, he was taken in two days ago by You & I Center, a sports facility in Hwaseong, Gyeonggi Province.

“I didn’t think this day would really come,” his foster mother Yang Jeong-suk, 40, said with a big smile. “I have had to endure all kinds of humiliation at other pools, begging them to allow my son to swim. I even offered to clean the pools.”

Kim was abandoned at an orphanage at five months old. Yang met the boy at the orphanage while working as a volunteer and became the child`s guardian.

In the 11 years since, she has never sought preferential treatment for him but had to put up with humiliation because of his defects.

Kim learned swimming at five as part of his rehabilitation program. Four years ago, he was touted as a promising disabled swimmer. In April this year, he won three gold and four silver medals in a disabled tournament in Britain.

He got accepted by You & I Center while working as a goodwill ambassador for the Purme Foundation, a nonprofit organization that seeks to establish a hospital specializing in rehabilitation for the disabled.

Kim attended an event in which the Hwaseong city government donated hospital land for the foundation. There, the Hwaseong mayor offered him entry into the swimming facility.

The mayor also promised to hire an instructor to form a swim team for both disabled and non-disabled children.

Experts have high hopes for Kim’s potential, citing his good techniques and industrious attitude. They say he could be the Park Tae-hwan of disabled swimmers. Coincidentally, Kim’s main events are the 200 and 400-meter freestyle, the same as Park.

Kim spends more than three hours in the water every day. “I feel comfortable in water. I like it because I can go forward just by stroking my arms,” he said.

He also expressed regret over Park’s poor performance in the FINA World Swimming Championships in Rome. “I am sorry he didn’t show good results even though he did his best. I want to see him dominate the swimming world again,” he said.

Saying that he wants to win an Olympic gold medal just like Park did, Kim aims to participate in the 2012 London Paralympics.