Every Paralympian has a story of how they battled the odds to compete in the sport they love, but few have a tale as remarkable as Australian swimmer Ahmed Kelly.
Kelly, 24, is from a family of amazing resilience.
His adoptive mother is a world-renowned humanitarian, his brother – who was born with similar, severe limb deficiencies – is musically gifted and appeared on the Australian version of the X-Factor, while his adoptive sisters, Trishna and Krishna, were born as conjoined twins and separated through surgery in 2009.
Ahmed and Emmanuel, who sang John Lennon’s Imagine on the Australian talent show in 2011, were both born in Baghdad, the capital of Iraq.
Unable to care for the children, their parents left them at an orphanage where Ahmed spent the majority of his first seven years.
That was until his future adoptive mother, Moira Kelly, took the brothers to Australia in 1998.
“What my mom does is quite extraordinary, bringing kids from all over the world that need life-saving operations,” said Kelly. “She has done an awesome job. She brought me and my brother over for our own surgery and I pretty much haven’t looked back since.”
Once in Australia, Kelly had surgery to remove the deformed sections of his lower legs and learned to walk, and then run, using prosthetic legs, before he started to play Australian rules football.
He switched to swimming and competed at the London 2012 and Rio 2016 Paralympic Games, where his final race, the men’s 50m backstroke S4, takes place on Friday.
Kelly is being cheered on in Brazil by his mother and brother, who have both made the long trip from Australia to Rio.
Speaking about his brothers and sisters, Kelly added: “They are remarkable siblings.
“They themselves had to conquer their own challenges and I’m very proud of all three of them.
“My mom has always had values of treating each other with respect and trying to be as fair as possible. They are great values and that’s something I really worked hard to live by as well.”