Para sport: Table tennis tournament allows public to spar with para paddlers

Egyptian YouTube sensation Ibrahim Hamato plays table tennis by holding the bat in his mouth.ST VIDEO: MARCUS LIM
Ibrahim Hamato lost both arms at the age of 10.
Ibrahim Hamato lost both arms at the age of 10. ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

SINGAPORE - Over 20 Paralympic paddlers from Asia gathered to participate in a friendly para-table tennis tournament to raise awareness of the sport on Saturday.

Watched by over 200 people at the Marina Square central atrium, the event was open to the general public and will continue on Sunday.

Jointly organised by the Singapore Asean Para Games Organising Committee (Sapgoc) and the Table Tennis Association for the Disabled Singapore (Ttads), the event gave attendees the chance to learn more about the sport and spar with the para athletes.

"Not many people understand or are comfortable with seeing para athletes play," Kerk Kim Por, the deputy chairman of Sapgoc, said. "So we bring the sport to them."

The public were also treated to seeing Egyptian YouTube sensation, Ibrahim Hamato, in action. One of the top Paralympic players in the world, Hamato plays table tennis by holding the bat in his mouth after losing both of his arms at the age of 10.

Hamato said: "Sports should not just be for able-bodied athletes but for everyone to enjoy and participate in. This event is a great opportunity for Singaporeans to find out for themselves what the para paddlers are capable of and to be inspired by para sport."

Singapore's team captain Dr William Tan, 58, sees the friendly tournament as a platform to connect with the public.

"The Para Games are for the physically challenged athletes and they (the public) are unaware that we can play table tennis, so this is eye-opening for them. This is also a testing ground to see how far we are in our preparation for the upcoming Games."

To conclude the event on Sunday, the winner of the friendly tournament will receive a prize from the guest of honour, Minister of State (Culture, Community and Youth) Sam Tan.

Singapore will host the Asean Para Games for the first time from Dec 3-9.

marcusl@sph.com.sg