Egypt’s Ibrahim Hamadtou has captured the imaginations and hearts of Paralympic fans at Tokyo 2020, with his distinctly unique table tennis playing style.
Hamadtou, who lost both his arms at the age of 10, competes at table tennis, balancing the paddle in his mouth.
Fans were left stunned by how he tosses the ball up on serve with his foot and generates remarkable spin on the ball, despite his lack of arms.
He played South Korea’s Park Hong-ku in the Class 6 qualifiers on Wednesday.
Class 6 is open to athletes who can stand but have impairments to their arms and legs.
The 48-year-old made his Paralympics debut at 43 and he provides stiff competition for those he faces.
However, he was beaten by Park in straight sets, losing 11-6 11-4 11-9.
Park, a gold medallist at the 2014 Asian Para Games, suffered cervical spine damage that impaired his upper and lower body movement in an industrial accident in 2005.
With clips of his opponent Hamadtou going viral, people were left in awe of his remarkable efforts.
‘This is incredible,’ comedian Omad Djalili posted on Twitter. ’48 year old Egyptian Paralympian Ibrahim Hamadtou who lost his arms in a train accident aged 10 in Tokyo today.
‘Could have played football but took up table tennis “as a challenge.” How inspiring is this?’
Ibrahim Elhusseiny Hamadtou during table tennis at the Tokyo Paraolympics, Tokyo Metropolitian gymnasium, Tokyo, Japan on August 25, 2021.
Superlatives flowed, with social media users describing themselves as ‘speechless’ and calling his ability ‘unbelievable’.
In an interview with CNN in 2014, Hamadtou explained how he started playing ping pong.
‘In our village, we could only play, at that time, table tennis and soccer – that’s why I played both,’ he said.
‘It was logical to play soccer first due to my case, then I played table tennis as a challenge.
‘It was quite difficult playing table tennis after the accident. 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.’