Physical handicap doesn't stop Olympic bid

SMASHING IT: Natalia Partyka of Poland.
SMASHING IT: Natalia Partyka of Poland.

One-armed table tennis player Natalia Partyka hopes to win her first Olympic medal in the team event as she continues to break down barriers between the Olympics and the Paralympics.

Partyka - who was born without her right hand and forearm - was eliminated from the women's singles yesterday.

She will now rely on a strong performance from the Polish team as she attempts to win her first Olympic medal at her second Games.

Not having a right hand to help her serve or balance while playing hasn't stopped the 23-year-old from chasing her dreams.

She cradles the ball at the edge of her forearm and her elbow to serve and her general play is up there with the best in the world.

Partyka is one of only two athletes who will compete at the Olympics and Paralympics in London.

South African sprinter Oscar Pistorius (double leg amputee) will join her in achieving the remarkable feat.

The duo join South African swimmer Natalie du Toit (leg amputee), US runner Marla Runyan (visually impaired), Italian archer Paola Fantato (polio) and New Zealand archer Neroli Fairhall (paraplegic) who have also competed at both the Olympics and Paralympics in the past.

"Because I don't have my right arm, sometimes I have to spend more time than others with physical conditioning," Partyka said.

Partyka made her Paralympic debut in Sydney in 2000 as an 11-year-old and and has since won two gold medals and two silver medals at the Games.

She made her Olympic debut in Beijing four years ago and had hoped to win a medal. But after leading Jie Li from the Netherlands by two games, Partyka stumbled and lost the next four games to have her singles tournament ended.

Rival competitor Kristin Silbereisen trained with Partyka prior to the Olympics and said: "She does not need special treatment, she wants to be treated like everyone else.

"The first time you play against her it can be a bit difficult. You can't let yourself be distracted by the fact that she doesn't have a lower arm."

While Partyka is out of the singles event, her Olympic medal campaign isn't over. She will be in contention for a medal when she joins her fellow Polish athletes in the team event tomorrow.