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Thursday 17 October 2019

Miracle twins 'set sights on gold at Paralympics' after climbing triumph

The twins scaling the indoor climbing wall
The twins scaling the indoor climbing wall

They are the miracle twins who have continually defied the odds by proving there is no obstacle they cannot overcome.

Now, Hassan and Hussein Benhaffaf have hit another unlikely milestone - reaching the summit of an indoor climbing wall.

The nine-year-old formerly conjoined twins, who have learned to move independently with prosthetic limbs, have refused to allow their physical limitations to restrict their participation in sport.

Over the past year, the twins have become stars at a number of activities, including basketball, athletics and football - all of which they regularly participate in at local clubs near their Carrigtwohill, Co Cork, home.

However, it is the mastering of indoor climbing that has most caught the eye of parents Angie and Azzedine Benhaffaf.

Now, the sports-mad pair have set their sights on winning gold for Ireland at the Paralympics when they grow up.

"The boys have been doing really well," he said.

"It's been a challenging year in many ways, because they have required quite a few procedures, but that is part of their lives, and they know that.

"But they're really thriving at school.

"They're in a lovely class at Educate Together in Midleton, and they've lots of great friends.

Happiest

Hassan and Hussein Benhaffaf
Hassan and Hussein Benhaffaf

"They are doing great academically, and they are both particularly strong at maths.

"But it's on the sports field where they're happiest.

"They're both really sporty, and indoor climbing is the big thing for them at the moment, which is another incredible achievement.

"They've told me their dream is to represent Ireland at the Paralympics, and I truly believe they will do it."

However, Angie - who has two older daughters - also admitted the past year had been a challenging one for her sons.

Although they are both happy at school, they both have a lifetime of surgery ahead of them.

The boys survived a 16-hour operation to separate them in April 2010 at Great Ormond Street Hospital in London - a procedure led by respected Irish surgeon Dr Edward Kiely.

They are due back at the same hospital next month for yet another procedure.

However, Angie said her sons, who are known as the Little Fighters', refused to let hospital visits get them down.

"The boys never complain. They really make the most out of what they have and enjoy life to the full," she said.

"They know the procedures are very much part of their lives, and that's not going to change, but they are very happy and confident in themselves.

"The past year was a tough one, but it wasn't as bad as the previous year, which was the worst really since they were separated.

"But they bring a huge smile to me every day.

"They're as infectious as ever, and we're looking forward to a great family Christmas and hopefully a good year for the boys in 2019.

"The boys inspire me every single day."

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