Paralympics: 'There's no impossible,' says Egyptian table tennis player who holds bat in his mouth

Ibrahim Elhusseiny Hamadtou failed to win a medal, but he has become one of the most uplifting stories at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics.
Ibrahim Elhusseiny Hamadtou failed to win a medal, but he has become one of the most uplifting stories at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics.PHOTO: AFP

TOKYO (XINHUA) - Although Egyptian table tennis player Ibrahim Elhusseiny Hamadtou failed to win a medal, he has become one of the most uplifting stories at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics.

At a Games full of stories of athletes who have overcome limitations to compete at the highest level, Hamadtou, who lost both his arms during a childhood train accident, stands apart, holding the racket with his mouth and serving by flicking the ball up with his right foot.

On Friday (Aug 27), Hamadtou, now 48 years old, lost to Chinese player Chen Chao in the men's singles.

"It is an honour to play against a Chinese player. All the Chinese players are really strong," he said.

He had also lost to Park Hong-kyu from South Korea on Wednesday.

"Hamadtou gets better every time he competes. From now on, we will start to work for the Paris Paralympics," said Hossam El Shobary, his coach.

Hamadtou was injured when he was only 10 years old. He used to play both football and table tennis. While it seems logical for him to play football, "football is too dangerous for him", said El Shobar.

"With no arms, he cannot protect himself when he falls."

Hamadtou decided to stick to table tennis following a clash with a friend.

"One of my friends said, 'Why don't you do something you're capable of', and that fired me up to decide to play table tennis. I wanted to prove that I can do it," he said.

It proved a challenging path.

At the beginning, Hamadtou tried to put the table tennis racket under his armpits but failed, then he decided to hold the racket in his mouth.

"I was surprised when I succeeded," he said.

It took him nearly a year of practice to get used to holding the racket with his mouth and making the serve. "With practice and playing regularly, my skill improved," he said.

He said the sport has become a part of his life.

"The sport has given a lot to me. To be without it is like living life without water."

A video of him playing table tennis has gone viral on social media, and he said "the video was a message to the world that there's no impossible".