Scheduled to be the youngest athlete at the next Summer Olympics in Tokyo, 12-year-old Syrian Hend Zaza is ready to give everything for her country.
Ranked 155th in the ITTF World Rankings, she secured her place at the Tokyo Olympics by winning the West Asia Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Jordan in February 2020 when she was just 11 years old. .
Entering the Tokyo Games with the youngest Olympian, Hend Zaza would become the fifth youngest Olympic athlete since Romania’s Beatrice Hustiu who competed in figure skating at the 1968 Mexico Olympics, according to OlyMadMen.
With eyes filled with curiosity, intensity and a desire to do better, Zaza looks forward to all the Olympic events in the future to come, “If I can’t go to the Olympics this year because of the coronavirus, I ‘will go in 2024,’ Zaza said immediately after qualifying for the Games on the ITTF website.
Born in 2009 in Hama, Syria, Zaza started playing table tennis in 2014. At the age of 5, Zaza understood the importance of table tennis in her life – given the current situation in Syria. with the civil war that has been on for the last 10 years and most of his life.
Zaza is currently training under the guidance of his coach, Aljamaan, at the Al-Muhafaza Table Tennis Club in Damascus with concrete floors and minimal lighting. But defying all expectations, she became the first Syrian player to win national titles in all four eligible categories, namely prospects, cadets, juniors and seniors.
In 2016, Zaza was chosen by the ITTF Hopes program, feeling her potential for growth in sport, during the West Asia Hopes Week and Challenge in Qatar, accompanied by her brother. The ITTF Hopes Program is an ITTF High Performance and Development Department talent identification program that brings together players and coaches from around the world.
Considering the situation, Hend found solace in the sport which started out as a distraction and she decided to firmly ground her roots in the game as it gave her a rest from everyday heinous acts.
“I have very rarely seen a player of this age play with such joy and train with such intensity as Zaza. She never walked to pick up the ball – she did run. Of course, her technique needed. and still needs to be improved, his determination, his resilience and the will to play and win are (almost) a guarantee of future success. “
– Eva Jeler, ITTF expert on Zaza (Source: ittf.com)
According to her trainer, Aljamaan, the war played a decisive role in Zaza’s success, but nonetheless they are working to fully prepare her for the quadrennial event. Hend’s qualification for the Olympics is called a beacon of hope for every player in the country, as it is the first time Syria has achieved Olympic representation through a qualifying tournament.
The Table Tennis Championships in Tokyo will kick off on Saturday July 25 at the Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium and will surely mark the start of a long and successful career for this budding paddler.