Table Tennis has changed my life: Iraqi blast victim Nejla Imad

Twelve-year-old Iraqi blast victim grateful to sport for positive changes and paralympic glory

Baquba (Iraq): Twelve-year-old Iraqi Nejla Imad holds a white table tennis ball against her bat with her thumb, flicks it into the air and sends it bouncing over the net.

Nejla Imad with her table tennis medals in Baquba. Pic/AFP
Nejla Imad with her table tennis medals in Baquba. Pic/AFP

She does this with her left hand while sitting in a wheelchair: Imad, like tens of thousands of Iraqis, is a victim of the bombs that have terrorised the country for well over a decade.

A roadside bomb ripped into her family's car in Baquba, a city northeast of Baghdad, when she was just three years old, taking much of her right leg, part of her left and her right forearm.

Despite these injuries, she took up table tennis when she was four and is now a rising Paralympic star. "Table tennis... has begun to change my life for the better," says Imad, who wears a green jersey with her country's flag on the front and "Iraq" written across the back. "My self-confidence is increasing day after day," she says.

"I see the people around me show sympathy to me, and their readiness to help me, especially when I am outside the house, and this is something important that greatly eased the physical and psychological pain after I became handicapped," Imad says.

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