Sunday,22 October, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1312, (22-28 September 2016)
Sunday,22 October, 2017
Issue 1312, (22-28 September 2016)

Ahram Weekly

The legend Hamadtou

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hamdt
Al-Ahram Weekly

Egyptian table tennis player Ibrahim Hamadtou, 43, from the city of Damietta, fulfilled his dream of playing at the Paralympics in Rio, reports Abeer Anwar. Hamadtou, who lost both his arms in a train accident when he was 10, holds the racket with his mouth and serves the ball with his foot.

“My dream has come true of playing in the Paralympic Games,” said Hamadtou after his Paralympics debut. “I want to tell everybody that nothing is impossible, and everybody should work hard for what you love and what you think is good for yourself.

“I’m just happy that I could come from Egypt to be here at the Paralympics and to play against a champion,” he told AFP. “I can’t express what my heart is feeling: I’m too happy.”

On the first day of events, Hamadtou, who won silver in the 2013 and 2015 African championships, competed against Great Britain’s David Wetherill.

“Not all defeats are defeats. Sometimes you lose but you actually win because you have added to your experience, you have added to your knowledge. Today I added to my knowledge,” said Hamadtou.

Though Wetherill won the match, Hamadtou was nevertheless praised and even called a ‘legend’.

“It was an absolute honour for me to start off against the legend that is Ibrahim. It was a strange one to prepare for because I’ve seen him on YouTube and he’s a legend in table tennis,” Wetherill told reporters, as reported by King Fut.

On the second day, Hamadtou again gave a strong performance against his German opponent Thomas Rau but again lost.

The Rio Paralympics are full of stories of men and women who have trained their impaired bodies to compete at the highest level. Yet Hamadtou stands apart, the only table tennis player even to try the feat of playing without hands.

Hamadtou’s story is recounted by his coach of 20 years Hossam Al-Shoubri. “After the accident, he stayed shut up at home for three years. He wouldn’t go out.  A family friend tried to put the depressed teen back on track through sport. He still had two good legs, so football seemed obvious. But football didn’t work. It was too dangerous. You see, with no arms, if you fall you have no way to protect yourself. So Hamadtou tried table tennis, first by gripping the small paddle under the stump of his right arm. That didn’t work either so finally he attempted to clasp the racket handle in his mouth, much like someone might hold a flashlight when their hands are busy.

“He’s the only one that uses his mouth,” Al-Shoubri said. “There’s no one else. If there were five, six, seven players using their mouths, we’d make a new class.”

Table tennis players need to throw the ball to hit a serve, so Hamadtou plays without a right shoe, using his toes to scoop the ball and toss it up, perfectly positioned. He then uses his strong neck to transform his head into the equivalent of an arm and his mouth into a hand.

“It took me three years to learn,” Hamadtou said.

 His exploits have made him something of an Internet sensation, starring in a YouTube hit called “Impossible is Nothing” that has been viewed more than 2.3 million times.

The Paralympic Games is a major international multi-sport event involving athletes with a range of physical and intellectual disabilities.

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