Have you heard the expression “sink your teeth into it”? It means to become completely involved in something or to dedicate yourself to a task. No one has taken that phrase more literally than Ibrahim Hamadtou, as the athlete recently became the first Paralympian to play table tennis using his mouth.
This extraordinary player has risen above adversity to become a central figure in his sport, a hero in his hometown and an inspiration to all. Hamadtou’s life has not been easy. At the age of 10, he lost both his arms in a train accident. Understandably he became depressed and refused to leave his home. He didn’t go to school, he didn’t play with friends, in short he saw no future for himself. He was distraught.
His friends and family did not give up on him. They encouraged Hamadtou to get back into sport and to give his life hope again. At first, they thought soccer was the obvious choice but it wasn’t possible. While we generally only need our two feet to play soccer we do rely on our arms a lot. Not only do they help in terms of balance but they are really required for safety. If you fall you put your arms out to support you. Without arms, the sport was too dangerous for Hamadtou. Then they tried table tennis.
In contrast to soccer, when you think of table tennis you think of the one thing you need most, arms. Hamadtou is proving otherwise. He originally tried gripping the bat under the stump of his arm but it wouldn’t work properly. When he started to use his mouth it was difficult too. He persisted and persisted and three years later he is now representing his country at the Paralympian games! Using his neck to generate momentum and his mouth to hold the racket Hamadtou has become somewhat of a sensation.
Not only this but in table tennis in order to serve you must throw the ball in the air. Hamadtou leaves one foot shoeless and picks the ball up with his toes and tosses it in the air. The table tennis hero has started to amass millions of viewers on YouTube who love to watch his play.
While Hamadtou has not won gold yet, his achievement is nothing short of incredible. The difficult thing is that he is the only player competing with his mouth. It means that the competition is not really set up for him and until more players start to compete using this method the games will still be difficult. This has not stopped Hamadtou from competing. He says he is just happy to play against champions of the sport and to represent his country.
What an inspiration.