Have you ever given up on something you wish you’d persisted with? We’ve all quit something at one point or another in our lives and there are many reasons for giving up. It sounds great to be able to play an instrument effortlessly, master a sport or become fluent in multiple languages, but once the reality of just how much work goes into a skill sinks in, it can often feel impossible.
Meet Ibrahim Hamada of Egypt, a table tennis enthusiast who says, “Nothing is impossible as long as you work hard.” That may sound like the kind of thing that can only be said by the exceptionally naive, but that is not the case here. He was involved in a train accident when he was 10 years old, and he lost most of his arms as a result. At 13, he was determined to find a way to play again.
He started by holding the paddle under his arm. When he couldn’t achieve the results he wanted that way, he tried other options until he finally settled for holding it in his mouth. Though he must lower his head every time the ball comes his way, he can still play at an impressive speed.
International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) president, Adham Sharara, invited Hamada to the 2014 World Team Table Tennis Championships in Tokyo, where he had the chance to play against some of the best players in the world including Vladimir Samsonov of Belarus, Ma Long of China, and Jun Mizutani of Japan.
He serves by tossing the ball up with one foot, which seems like it would be a challenge in its own right. He shows an incredible level of control, aiming the ball expertly. He varies his delivery well enough that he can take even his professional opponents by surprise, playfully earning points.
Hamada says that his ability to play is the second best achievement in his life, after his relationship with his wife. He also discusses table tennis players in Egypt, remarking that better training facilities would help the country’s talented players to be more successful in international competitions.
It’s not only the challenges he faces that make him interesting to watch. Though he seems shy and speaks very modestly, at times you can catch him adding little flourishes to his game. Be sure to watch him in action below.