Gazan man beats disability at table tennis

By Hedaya al-Saidi, Friday, March 28, 2014

GAZA CITY - It did not take long for armless Ahmed Tafish to come up with a way to fulfill his dream of playing table tennis – his favorite sport.

All it took was a short rope, of which one end would be wrapped around the handle of the tennis racket and the other around the tip of one of his half-missing arms.

"When I first watched the table tennis, I really wished I could be able to play it," Tafish told Anadolu Agency after a skillful performance at a sports club in the Gaza Strip.

"And now I can say that I'm able to play it," he said contently, attributing his success to his strong desire to both be able to fulfill his dream and challenge his disability.

Born with no forearms, Tafish, 32, is an outstanding case out of around 38,000 people suffering from disabilities in the Gaza Strip – around 2.4 percent of the enclave's nearly two million population – according to a 2011 study by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics.

Tafish recalls that it was not an easy task for him to practice table tennis at the beginning.

"At the beginning I tried to hold the rackets with both my arms but I couldn't," he said. "But after numerous trials and insistence to ignore those who discouraged me, I came up with this trick and was finally able to get a controlling hold of the racket."

The middle-height young man remembered the first time he played in front of an audience, who were "stunned" as they watched him masterfully blocking his opponent's strikes.

"At the end of the game, everyone stood up and clapped very loudly," Tafish said, going on to express his ambition to participate in international table tennis championships.

Tafish, who graduated from a rehabilitation faculty for people with physical disabilities in Gaza, has managed to "adapt and pursue a normal life" thanks largely to his parents whom he said have always encouraged him not to view himself as disabled.

He had sworn off prosthetic forearms in the past, but found out that they had actually "restricted his freedom of movement."

"I don't feel incomplete," he said. "I always depend on myself; I even drive my car on my own."

In order to do that, Tafish taught himself another trick: He would bring his elbows towards each other and hold the car key between them to unlock the door and he would then start up the car using his own toes to move the key.

"I've never felt that my husband is disabled," said Randa al-Hadad, Tafish's 29-year-old wife.

"He is an extraordinary man with a lot of confidence and talent."

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