6-year-old Ismail Zulfic fearlessly dives headfirst into the water at the Olympic pool Otoka, but that wasn't always the case.
Ismail was born without arms and a deformed foot. To perform most tasks, he must twist and turn his back -- which makes therapy a necessity. Not so long ago, Ismail's parents had to coax him into the pool for his water therapy treatments. A previous encounter with a rubber pool left the young boy shaken and apprehensive of the water.
Thankfully, a man named Kapo started the Spid swimming club for disabled children as a way to get them in the pool with proper guidance and supervision. Little did Ismail's parents know, but Kapo would soon turn their son's fear of the pool into a positive and exciting experience.
It wasn't long before Ismail could swim a lap of the pool unassisted. A year later this determined boy would walk toward his assigned lane ready to compete in his first regional competition. Not only would Ismail blow competitors years older than him out of the water in the 50-meter backstroke, but he would also take home his very first gold medal. The Spid swim club made quite the debut taking home an additional 5 gold medals and 2 silvers. What was originally slated as an opportunity to experience competitive swimming turned into a day of celebration and triumph for the little swimmers of Spid.
Unfortunately, the success of Spid isn't very common in Bosnia. Disabled individuals receive very little aid making families, like Ismail's, who are already in a financially tight situation stretch themselves incredibly thin to provide care and activities that are easily accessible to most children. The Zulfic's drive their son 45 miles twice a week so he can swim for Kapo's swim team, which is the only one of its kind in the country.
The club currently runs off of donations made by local businesses along with the help of three volunteers who teach swim lesson with Kapo.
As the club continues to bring joy and achievements to its young swimmers, they hope to raise awareness for the lack of inclusion of disabled people in Bosnia.
This article was originally written by Jess Butler and appeared here.