Landmine Survivor Overcomes Obstacles to Win Olympic Gold
At age 15, Ermin Jusufovic lost his right leg to a landmine. Today, the 24 year-old is a star member of the Bosnia-Herzegovina National Sitting Volleyball Team.
In 1997, 15-year-old Ermin Jusufovic was helping his family cut firewood near their home in Bosnia-Herzegovina when he stepped on an unseen landmine. The explosion resulted in the amputation of his right leg below the knee.
After the accident, returning to school was very difficult for the 10th grader. “Seeing my classmates again was very emotional for me,” says Ermin. “I received a lot of support from my homeroom teacher, who encouraged me to continue my schooling, and made sure I graduated with the rest of my class.”
Ermin was invited to a rehabilitation center with other young child landmine survivors to receive physical rehabilitation. While at the center, Ermin became friends with another survivor from his hometown of Tuzla who played sitting volleyball. The boy encouraged Ermin to join the club’s team after his rehabilitation was complete.
When LSN met Ermin in 1999, he was already playing sitting volleyball with the local team. At the time, Ermin needed a better quality prosthesis to be able to play at his best. He was referred to LSN for help by a local prosthetics center. After meeting with an LSN Outreach Worker, LSN arranged to cover the cost of a new prosthetic leg for Ermin.
Ermin played for his local team for two years before being invited to join the Bosnia-Herzegovina National Team. “Those years were the most fruitful and intense of my life,” says Ermin. “Each training session was a challenge, and I worked very hard to earn a spot as a starting player on the National Team.”
Playing volleyball has offered him more than just the physical benefits of exercise. His team has provided him with a support network, as all of the current players on the National Team are amputees who were injured in the Bosnian war, either as soldiers or civilians.
The Bosnia-Herzegovina National Sitting Volleyball Team is one of the best teams in the world, and is the reigning European and World Champion. “My favorite accomplishments were winning the first World Championship title in 2002, and winning the first gold medal for Bosnia-Herzegovina at the European Club Championship in 2003,” he says, beaming. Ermin is also a member of the gold medal-winning 2004 Paralympic Team.
Today, Ermin supports his family by playing volleyball professionally for both his local team, SPID, and the National Team. Now, 24-years old, Ermin was recently married to his longtime girlfriend, Merima.