Ibrahim Hamadtou, an Egyptian para-table tennis player champion, is a true inspiration.
Ibrahim was only 10 years old when a tragic train accident in 1983 caused him to lose both arms. But that devastating loss didn’t stop him from living his life to the fullest. He lived as if he still had both of his arms. He played, worked, and eventually became a family man, happily married and with three children.
Ibrahim, 48, is also a world-renowned table tennis player.
“In our village, we could only play, at that time, table tennis and soccer — that’s why I played both,” he told CNN. “It was logic to play soccer first due to my case; then I played table tennis as a challenge.”
The Paralympian was inspired to pursue the sport after a friend made a snide remark about him.
“I was in the club where I was officiating a match between two of my friends,” he recalled. “They disagreed on a point, when I counted the point in favor of one of them the other player told me, do not interfere as you will never be able to play. It was that statement that fired me up to decide to play table tennis.”
And he didn’t just play—Ibrahim owned the game, employing his own unique strategies to excel. The table tennis player started exploring the sport when he was 13, initially trying different options to hold the bat, including holding it under his armpit.
“It was quite difficult playing table tennis after the accident,” he recalled. “I had to practice hard for three consecutive years on a daily basis. At the beginning, people were amazed and surprised seeing me playing. They encouraged and supported me a lot and they were very proud of my willing, perseverance and determination.”
Ibrahim has put together an incredible athletic career, having won silver medals in the African Para Table Tennis Championships in 2011 and 2013.
He made his Paralympics debut in Rio at 43 and is still competing with the best players of his class.
To play, Ibrahim holds the end of the paddle between his teeth and uses his right foot to flick the ball up high to serve. It took him almost a year of practice to get used to holding the racket like that and serving with his foot.
As the ball sinks mid-air, Ibrahim hits the delicate white sphere with his racket, and it shoots like a bullet toward his opponent.
“With practice and playing regularly this skill was improved,” he said.
Ibrahim, who is considered a legend himself, competes against some of the greatest table tennis players in the world and has participated in the last two Paralympic games. He belongs to the Class 6 qualifiers, which is open to athletes who can stand but have impairments to their arms and legs.
Although he didn’t win against South Korea’s Park Hongkyu and China’s Chen Chao in the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games, his sheer perseverance and talent have gained international recognition.
“My goal in Tokyo 2021 is to be in good form; play better than in Rio to achieve a medal in this tournament. My message to the Egyptian and African players is: nothing is impossible,” he said.
Ibrahim is showing other people with limb differences that there is a place for them in the sports scene. We applaud him for overcoming the odds and his dedication to being the best at what he does!
Watch Ibrahim in action in the video below.
After learning about Ibrahim Hamadtou’s story, I will always remember him when I hear the word “unstoppable.” Please share his amazing story!