UNBREAKABLE: Dad's act of love saved baby born in POW camp
IF HANNA Wassenaar's father had not taken his six-year-old daughter swimming every day in the years following their release from a Japanese prisoner of war camp, she may not be able to walk today.
Returning home from the New Zealand Masters Games with five gold medals at 76 years of age, Hanna Wassenaar has her dad to thank for the passion he passed on after surviving World War II against all odds.
Born inside a Japanese POW camp in Indonesia, Hanna didn't meet her father until they were reunited by fate in a Brisbane rehabilitation camp at the end of the war.
A Dutch accountant living in East Java, Graham was torn from his family when the Japanese invaded Indonesia and took him to a prison in the mountains of Japan.
When they were released in 1945 and Graham saw his daughter for the first time, four-year-old Hanna was suffering Rickets disease and cholera as a result of extreme malnutrition and poor hygiene.
The diseases left her unable to walk until she was six years old.
Hanna said it was her father's selfless gift of swimming lessons that allowed her to build the strength to walk and left her with a passion for swimming that has rippled through her entire life.
"Every time I dive into the pool, I always feel connected and grateful to my father for having gone to all that trouble to get me to the pool," she said.
At the New Zealand Masters Games in February, Hanna dedicated one of her swimming races to her father and came away with a gold medal for every swimming event she entered.
Having competed continuously for the past 20 years, she has become a huge advocate for the Masters Games.
She has competed at the highest level and won countless medals, but said achieving her personal best and making friends with other competitors was what she loved best.
"You see people with all sorts of abilities and disabilities, body shapes and ages," she said.
"There is such a mix of us we are an inspiration, each one of us to the other."
Hanna is showing no sign of stopping and has others to look up to with some swimming competitors aged over 100.
But Hanna will have to let her dream of competing in the 2019 Queensland and Australian national games slide after a serious car accident on her last day in New Zealand.
The gold medallist was rushed to hospital with concussion and upper-body injuries after her car slid off the road and dropped four metres off a ledge.
More than a month later, Hanna got back into the pool at WIRAC this week for the first time.
While she was disappointed to not compete in the two upcoming championships, the swimming star counted herself lucky not to escape with more serious injuries.
It's not the first time in her life she's counted her blessings.
"I've been so lucky to survive," she said.