"Nothing Is Impossible": An Egyptian Paralympian Shows Us How.

Above: Egyptian Paralympic Athlete Ibrahim Hamato, two-time Silver Medalist at the African Para Table Tennis Championships. Photo Credit: Jayadas Chelur

Below Left: A barefooted Ibrahim Hamato uses his foot to launch the ball for his serve. Right: Posing with a young player. Photo Credit: Jayadas Chelur

The Westchester Table Tennis Center (WTTC) in Pleasantville, New York, has been one of the New York metropolitan region’s most prominent venues for local, regional, national, intercollegiate, and international sports. Among the events that the WTTC has hosted in its seven years have been the USA Table Tennis 2016 New York State Championships, the National Collegiate Table Tennis Association’s Divisional Championships and Northeast Regional Championships, the USA Table Tennis All-America Over-40 Championship Tour, the International Table Tennis Federation’s (ITTF) 2013 North America Cup Championships, and the ITTF’s 2014 North American Tour Grand Finals in February 2015.

 

Competing on the tables of the WTTC have been U.S. and International Olympians Ariel Hsing (2012 USA), Lily Zhang (2012, 2016 USA), Kanak Jha (2016 USA), Jimmy Butler (1992, 1996 USA), Canada’s Eugene Wang (2012, 2016), China’s four-time Olympian Zhiwen He,  seven-time Croatian Olympian Zoran Primorac, Mexico’s #1 ranked woman player and two-time Olympian Yadira Silva (2008, 2012), and India’s Olympian Neha Aggarwal (2008). Athletes from Barbados, Canada, China, Croatia, Dominican Republic, France, Ghana, India, Ivory Coast, Jamaica, Japan, Korea, Mexico, New Zealand, Nigeria, Pakistan, Poland, Russia, Slovakia, Spain, Taipei, Togo, Trinidad and Tobago, the United Kingdom, and the National Teams of Venezuela and Costa Rica. Also competing on the tables of the WTTC have been national champions including the WTTC's own Kai Zhang, currently ranked # 17 in the U.S. among men, and its Alguetti brothers: Adar Alguetti , Gal Alguetti, and Sharon Alguetti  – all three are current members of the U.S.A. Men’s Team. Adar Alguetti is also a member of the reigning National Championship intercollegiate table tennis team from New York University.

 

Recognizing that inclusiveness means hosting events for not just amateur and professional athletes, young and older athletes, men and women athletes, U.S. and international athletes but, also, highlighting the talents of both able and handicapped athletes, WTTC founder and owner Will Shortz has also made it a point to include the full range of diversity among athletes in WTCC events.

 

In February of this year, the WTTC hosted the world’s first Parkinson’s Table Tennis Championship and will be the site of the ITTF 1st International Parkinson’s Table Tennis Tournament scheduled for 2019.

Above: Players from the September 6, 2017 "Ping Pong Parkinson's" night at the WTTC. Photo Credit: Warren Rosenberg

 

This past weekend, on Sunday, October 21st, the WTTC continued its tradition of featuring both international and ability-diverse table tennis when it hosted two Egyptian table tennis stars, El-Sayed Lashin and Ibrahim Hamato. Lashin is a three-time winner of the African Cup and three-time Olympian. Commenting on Lashin’s play, WTTC owner Will Shortz observed that, “El-Sayed was just as good as you'd imagine for someone who spent 16+ consecutive years among the top 200 players in the world. His legs are as thick as trees. His arms are muscular. He puts his whole body into his shots, with incredible power and spin as well as finesse. He and Sharon Alguetti, a member of the U.S. men's table tennis team, put on a friendly exhibition with some spectacular play, including one shot by El-Sayed that went around (not over) the net and skimmed the corner of the table on the other side -- basically impossible to return.”

 

But as good as El-Sayed Lashin might be, the day belonged to Ibrahim Hamato. Hamato, a double amputee who lost both his arms at the age of ten in a train accident, plays competitive table tennis using his mouth to hold his paddle. Hamato is a two-time silver medalist at the African Para Table Tennis Championships. He demonstrated his unique skills by taking on all comers, starting with the kids who were present, and then the adults. “Perhaps the most amazing thing about Ibrahim is his serve. He plays without his right shoe. He grasps the ball by his bare foot, tosses it high in the air, then hits it as it comes down -- twisting his head as the ball contacts the paddle, imparting a nasty spin. He was inspiring to watch”, noted Shortz.

Above: Left WTTC Owner Will Shortz and at Right, Amoolya Menon at play against Ibrahim. Photo Credit: Jayadas Chelur

Below: El-Sayed Lashin at play and with Will Shortz. Photo Credit: Jayadas Chelur

El-Sayed, speaking for both himself and Ibrahim and interviewed by Irene Seibert had only positive things to say about their day at the WTTC. “I saw some photos of this club and I thought it was amazing. This was an amazing event. Everything here was perfect for table tennis. It’s very important that Ibrahim is here. He’s the most amazing table tennis player in the world. Everybody likes his story and what happened to him when he was young and, see now, he’s become one of the best speakers about how nothing is impossible – that anybody can do anything.  I think this is the best club in the New York area.”

 

Sharon Alguetti, perhaps best summed up the day by noting, “When there’s an obstacle in life you don’t just sit and give up, you still try to enjoy what you do. In this case, he doesn’t have two hands and he still wanted to play table tennis so, he plays with his mouth, and he’s really good. When I wake up and don’t feel good it’s not an excuse – you have to get up and fight your obstacles.”

 

According to Ibrahim himself, “nothing is impossible, as long as you work hard.”

 

 

For more information about this event or about the Westchester Table Tennis Center, please contact Irene Silbert at irenes84@gmail.com

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