By Colin MacGillivray
AUSTRALIAN Paralympian Ahmed Kelly will this week take on some of the world’s best swimmers with Kilmore and the wider Mitchell Shire community behind him.
Kelly is part of the Australian team at the Tokyo Paralympics and will compete in the men’s 50-metre breaststroke SB3 heats at 11.12am tomorrow, with finals at 7.38pm.
On Saturday, he will compete in the heats of the men’s 150-metre individual medley SM3, with the final at 6.47pm.
Kelly grew up in Kilmore after being adopted by humanitarian Moira Kelly, who found him and his brother Emmanuel in an orphanage in Iraq in 1998.
He was born with underdeveloped arms and legs attributed to the use of chemical weapons in Iraq in the 1990s, and had surgery in Australia to remove them.
This week will mark the third Paralympic appearance for the 29-year-old, who excelled at swimming as a junior.
Broadford’s Barbara Radford, who taught Kelly when he was a student at Assumption College Kilmore, said he had worked hard to get where he was.
“The way Moira brought them up was that you make the best of every opportunity and do your best,” she said.
“He had a go at footy but that wasn’t the easiest for him. He still used to play with the kids at school though, which was good. Then he got into swimming.
“He started going to Melbourne for classes when they were still living here. He was having to get up at 4am or something like that and they’d drive him down to swimming lessons and then get him back in time for classes.
“This was what Ahmed wanted to do, and that was when his swimming took off.”
Ms Radford said Kelly’s positivity made him a well-liked member of Australia’s Paralympic squad.
“He accepted himself, so everyone else accepted him. His personality was his big plus,” she said.
“Wherever he went his attitude and personality meant he brought everybody along with him.
“I saw a video which I think was of the team coming back from the last Paralympics, and he took the microphone around and interviewed everyone. He obviously got on really well with everybody.
“Everyone who met him would feel better in themselves because of the interaction with him and the way it brought out the best in you as well.”
Ms Radford said one particular memory of Kelly in the classroom was reflective of his dedication and effort.
“His handwriting was the neatest in the classroom even though he didn’t have any hands. He would pick up the pen between his elbows and off he’d go,” she said.
“That was a perfect example of his attitude that it’s no good saying I can’t do it. He just worked at it until he was the neatest writer.
“That stuck in my mind because 99 per cent of the kids couldn’t care less about handwriting, but whatever he had a go at he wanted to put in his best effort.”
People can follow Ahmed Kelly on social media at www.facebook.com/ahmedmkelly.