In life, people often have to overcome obstacles and suffer some pain before achieving any meaningful goal.
Omar Hegazy, a 31-year-old Egyptian national, has suffered more than most, making his achievements of breaking two Guinness World Records titles, the longest distance swam underwater with one breath (LA1) and the longest distance swam underwater with one breath with fins (LA1), even sweeter.
His first record-breaking swim with one breath saw him achieve a distance of 56.48 metres (185 ft and 4in). Then, with the use of a fin, he achieved a distance of 76.7 metres (251 ft and 7.68 in).
Omar has triumphed over unbelievable odds to achieve these incredible feats.
Omar was 25 years old when his life was changed forever. He was beginning a new life as a banker in Sinai Peninsula, Egypt, taking a big step to live a new life by the sea.
Shortly after, in 2015, the fateful event unfolded. During an ordinary summer day, Omar was driving his motorcycle when he drove over a road pit, which thrust him underneath a moving truck in just a few seconds.
"In that moment, I didn't know if I was dead or alive," said Omar.
Seconds later, pedestrians came to his aid and took him to the closest hospital. He was losing consciousness, but the pain was bringing him back around momentarily.
Arriving to the scene, his parents decided an immediate transfer to a hospital in Cairo.
"I was not allowed proper food for days until my situation is realized as I might have needed an operation at any point of time," explained Omar.
"When the doctors made their final recommendation for amputation, I was very calm. I asked for an immediate operation and cosmetic amputation for the remaining limb."
Surgeons were worried that Omar was not comprehending the gravity of the situation, given his matter-of-fact reactions.
Before they went ahead with the surgery, Omar was taken for an evaluation, to ensure that he understood the impact of his decision.
After the surgery, he spent a few more weeks in the hospital for physical and mental health checks.
Daily life was challenging as Omar was suddenly unable to complete simple tasks, like going downstairs with no handrail, or going to the bathroom independently.
"My journey to collect my phone from under the bed would take an hour trying not to wake up my sleeping mom in a hospital room."
"My mental health was collapsing dramatically and I started to have an identity crisis. I didn’t know what I was capable of."
After three months in a rehabilitation hospital, Omar learned how to use a crutch and a wheelchair. He then travelled to Germany in hopes for the best medical assistance to design a prosthetic leg.
During this period, Omar separated from his fiancé and slipped into a state of depression.
After struggling for months, he read a story published in June 2021 about Dareen Barbar, an athlete with an amputated leg from Lebanon who made history by breaking a Guinness World Records title for the longest Samson's chair/static wall sit (female).
So, he started reading more and came across another story about Faisal Al Mosawi, a diver who is a wheelchair user, who broke the world record for the fastest 10 km SCUBA diving.
"My source of motivation in the beginning was that I do not have much left to lose. I only got into swimming because I was a very angry. I found a way to I let out my anger and frustration, but it was also where I felt really free and capable."
In addition to breaking world records, Omar has;
- Swum across the Aqaba Gulf
- Cycled from Taba in Sinai Peninsula to the Egyptian Pyramids in Giza
- Climbed a mountain
He is now a motivational speaker helping others overcome their mental struggles and has done multiple talks on TV and in front of a live audience.
Omar now wants to inspire other people with disabilities to chase their dreams and 'think positive' if an obstacle comes their way.
"I hope these Guinness World Records titles inspire others and serve as a reminder that amazing is somewhere near you, you just have to open your eyes wide."