The Paralympics is the ultimate testament to the indomitability of the human spirit, as seen in the astonishing accomplishments of these differently abled athletes. But perhaps the most exceptional athletic performance at the games comes from 42-year-old Ibrahim Hamadtou, a table tennis player from Egypt who has no arms.
Hamadtou lost his arms in a tragic accident when he was 10, but that didn't get in the way of him becoming an acclaimed athlete on the international stage. He picks up the ball with his toes to serve and rallies with the paddle in his mouth. Although Hamadtou lost straight games in his Paralympic debut this year, his peers consider him a table tennis legend.
After beating Hamadtou in their opening match, Great Britain's David Wetherill gushed about his opponent. "He's a legend in table tennis. I was feeling the pressure, a bit jittery. [Then] you see people like Ibrahim and you can't possibly feel nervous: he puts things in perspective — the things he can do," Wetherill told AFP.
Hamadtou's unique skill first gained attention when a video of him playing table tennis went viral. Posted on the Official International Table Tennis Federation's YouTube channel in 2014, it has racked up more than 2 million views.
"My best achievement in life is divided in two parts," Hamadtou said in the video. "The best thing in my life is my wife, who is everything to me. The second part is table tennis, where I find my biggest success being able to enjoy every point I win."
Following the losses at his first-ever Paralympics Games, Hamadtou displayed the kind of character that makes him a true champion, regardless of the outcome. He said:
Not all defeats are defeats; sometimes you lose but you actually win because you have added to your experience, you have added to your knowledge; today I added to my knowledge.