Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Paralympic Table Tennis | Disabled Players

Table tennis sport is not only for ordinary people around but also for those individuals with physical disabilities. The ITTF (International Table Tennis Federation) categorized it as the "Paralympic Table Tennis".

Recently, one paralympic player have become well-known especially when his YouTube video went viral around the internet. His name is "Ibrahim Hamato" claiming that he had achieve his amazing skill by spending countless period of time practicing and honing his skills. As a result, he had developed what most professional players call as the "feeling" for the spin and "speed" of playing the game.

Feeling is the term for the skill of being able to hit the ball without looking at either the ball or the paddle. It's for this reason why it can only be developed through a lot of constant practice that also takes a lot of time.

On Ibrahim's case, he doesn't actually have a pair of arms. He handle his paddle with his own mouth. It isn't really easy to develop a "feeling" with your playing-hands but how much more when it comes to your mouth?

One of Ibrahim's video that went viral was him playing in Cairo back in January 2013.

It is a very short video clip that features Ibharim making an impressive display of hitting the ball back and forth over the net against an opponent (normal player) that was going easy on him.

At the 2014 World Team Championships held in Japan, ITTF had invited Ibharim as a guest for short matches against some of the best table tennis players in the world. Based from his performances that was witnessed by many professionals, they found out that he was playing proper strokes and applying spins that seems quite impossible to achieve.

There is actually no limit to what Ibharim can do as a table tennis player. He can block the ball pretty well, he can drive, apply spin and properly serve using his foot. But the most impressive skill that he has is that, he can tilt his head to launch an aggressive shot. It's not just an ordinary shot where there's a considerable amount of speed involved with some added spin.

Ibrahim Hamato's Early Background

At the young age, Mr. Ibrahim do actually had his two complete arms and he already has the passion of playing table tennis. Unfortunately, he suffered a serious accident at the age of 10 where he had no choice but to lose both of his arms. Since his favorite sport requires his hands to play, this reason alone didn't stopped him in pursuing his passion to continue playing table tennis.

Ibrahim tried a few experiments to himself on how to hold the paddle. At first, he tried to hold it under his arms but it didn't worked well. But after a lot of trials, he finally settled on using his mouth as the best part of his body in holding his paddle which really works amazingly great.

The story of Ibharim as a paralympic table tennis player is a great inspiration to all other disabled individuals out there. He has successfully sent a message that there is no one that can stop you from trying to achieve what you really want to accomplish.

Rules of Para Table Tennis

The official rules of paralympic (or "para") table tennis is being managed and regulated by the ITTF organization. They have actually classified disabled players on three different groups. The entire classifications is between 1 to 11.

Players classified under Class 1 to 5 are disabled players with wheelchairs. For Class 6 to 10, they are the disabled players who can stand like Ibharim. And for Class 11, they are players with intellectual disability.

Class 6 to 10

Unfortunately, disabled players who can managed to stand on their own has no exceptions to the official rules of table tennis. They follow the same rules applied to all normal players. But if the disabled player seems to have difficulties due to its physical disability, the umpire can make slight adjustments to the requirements.

Class 1 to 5

Disabled players on their wheelchair have their own laws of playing table tennis.

Serving and Receiving the Ball

- If the ball has been successfully served, the ball need to touch the receiver's court. Otherwise, the player who served the ball loses the point.

- A score point is earned by the serving player if the ball bounces for more than twice or if it comes to rest on the receiver's court.

- During a rally, any of the disabled player can place their hand on the table's surface specifically after a shot. This is to allow them to recover their position.

Playing Doubles

Disabled players on their wheelchairs can also play Doubles. The serving procedure remains the same so as for the receivers or opposing team. But the difference (from the official rules) is that, either of the disabled pair of players can hit and return the ball. (*Official rules for normal players requires the pair of players to alternately receive the ball.)

In addition to receiving or returning the ball, it is important that the players' wheelchairs should not go beyond the imaginary extension of the table's center line. If this happens, the umpire will automatically award the point to the opposing team.

Body Positions on the Wheelchair

Disabled players on their wheelchair doesn't just have to pay attention to the other rules mentioned above. They also need to observe their body positions as they play because improper positions could get them penalized causing them to lose a score point. Here are the following positions that the players must avoid while at play:

- When striking the ball, the back of the player's thigh must be resting or at least maintain minimum contact on the seat or cushion.

- The player must avoid touching the table's surface before striking the ball. Although, the player is free to touch the table but "after" hitting the ball out from his or her court.

- It is important that the player should avoid resting or touching the floor with his or her foot during the match.

Approved Wheelchairs

ITTF have issued an official requirements that is approved for the competition. First of these requirements is that, the wheelchair must have at least two large wheels and one small wheel consisting of three total wheels. If it happens that one of the wheels got dislodged or malfunctioned, the match will be immediately stopped by the umpire awarding the point to the opposing player.

The second requirement is about the height of the cushion. It is required that one or maximum of two cushions must have a limited height of up to 15 cm.

And third, no part of the body which is above the knee can be attached to the chair. It is because according to some experts, this can improve the balance of the player which seems to be unfair.

Wheelchair Sport

Moreover, if you are one among the disabled table tennis player especially a beginner, then you may want to consider joining Disability Awareness Training programs. These programs involve workshops and practical courses tutored by some professional paralympians.

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