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Ibrahim Hamadtou: The Paralympian Who Plays Table Tennis With His Mouth

Ibrahim Hamadtou: The Paralympian Who Plays Table Tennis With His Mouth
By PJ Browne

Ibrahim Hamadtou was just 10-years-old when he lost both his arms in a train accident while travelling to work as a carpenter in the Egyptian city of Damietta.

Despite his disability, Hamadtou is now a two-time Paralympian in table tennis. The 48-year-old holds the bat between his teeth. He serves by gripping the ball with his toes and throwing it into the air.

Hamadtou did not play sport before the accident. He tried soccer but his lack of balance led to him getting injured frequently.

"When I visited the youth centre, table tennis caught my eye," he explained in an interview with the Olympic Channel.

"The first thing I tried was to hold the paddle under my armpits but I failed. I tried this twice, on the third time, I placed the paddle in my mouth, and I held the paddle between my teeth for a few moments. And then I thought, 'Why don't I try playing with my mouth?'

"The next day, I was at the youth centre at 7am. And that's where it all began."

Hamadtou started playing table tennis in 1986 but it was not until 2014 that he came to global attention when he got an invitation to play an exhibition match against some of the world's best players.

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A video of him playing went viral. He later finished second in the African Para Championships and qualified for the 2016 Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro.

Hamadtou lost his opening game in Tokyo 3-0 to South Korea's Park Hong-Kyu. Though, his fortitude inspired many.

"When people see me holding the paddle and moving around, sometimes they try to imitate me, thinking that it's easy," he said.

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"It's not easy at all. Everything in my body moves with me. I need to strengthen my legs constantly because I rely on my legs more than any other player. My neck also needs to be strengthened constantly. The same goes for my teeth. The paddle should not move at all between my teeth because if it does, I lose everything.

"I can spend the entire day practising the serve. I have to win points as quickly as possible before it wears me out.

"It's extremely difficult but because we love the game, we try to stick to it. When I'm standing at the table, I probably forget everything. I feel that I'm having a conversation with the ball and it listens to what I say. I really feel like a king when I'm at the table."

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