Ibrahim Hamato: The Armless Table Tennis Player

Impossible is Nothing

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Ibrahim Hamato will very likely soon become the most well-known Paralympic table tennis player, since his YouTube video went viral this week. And good for him! Ibrahim has clearly spent hours and hours practicing his skill and developing an incredible amount of "feeling" for the spin and speed of the game. 

Developing this level of "feeling" isn't easy with your playing hand, it's even harder with your non-playing hand, but with your mouth...
using your teeth to grip the bat... that's unbelievable! 

I first came across Ibrahim Hamato in January 2013 when the ITTF uploaded the following video of him playing in Cairo. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PgPlqhj4fEY 

It was only a 23 second clip of one point and it wasn't easy to see exactly how we was hitting the ball. It was very impressive but I wasn't sure if he was more or less just playing "ping-pong" and donking the ball back and forth over the net against opponents that were going easy on him. 

Then the ITTF invited him to the 2014 World Team Championships in Japan and let him rally against some of the best players in the world. Only then did it become clear that he was playing proper strokes and using spin in a way that seems impossible! 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aDdh2439hnU 

Ibrahim can block. He can lob. He can drive. He can apply sidespin to the ball. He can serve (using his foot).
And most impressively, he can tilt his head to the side and actually play an aggressive attacking shot, adding a considerable amount of speed and spin to the ball! 

Ibrahim played table tennis as a child before having a serious accident at the age of ten. After a few years he decided he wanted to try and play the sport again.
He first tried to put the bat under his arm but it didn't work. After trying a few different options he settled on using his mouth to grip the bat! 

The best part of Ibrahim's story is that it inspires you to never accept "No" as the final answer. To never let somebody tell you you "can't" do something. If you want to achieve something in this brilliant sport of table tennis you should give it your all, like Ibrahim, and be thankful for all the gifts and opportunities you have. Ibrahim could have easily let his circumstances dictate his life and hobbies but instead he took the proactive response and found a way around it. 

Part of the reason that I love table tennis as a sport is how inclusive it is. A five year old can beat a 25 year old if they have practiced more. A teenager can play competitively with their grandparent. A wheelchair user can play against able-bodied opponents. A man with no arms can have a knock with Ma Long! 

If we are going to take two lessons from the story of Ibrahim Hamato, the armless table tennis player, how about these... 

1. Don't listen to the people that say you "can't" do something. 

If you are 15 years old and want to become a professional table tennis player don't let people tell you you are too old to ever make it, or that you should have started earlier. Don't be reactive and worry about the things you cannot change. Instead focus on the present and find a way to create the future you desire. 

2. Lets encourage more people to take up table tennis. 

As far as I can tell, table tennis is the perfect Paralympic sport. Ibrahim has proven it can be played by absolutely anyone. It is great for your strength and fitness, your coordination and timing, and also for your brain and mental functioning. We should be offering table tennis to as many different groups of people as possible!Your content...