Syrian table tennis prodigy Hend Zaza, the youngest athlete at the Tokyo Olympics, has accepted an invitation to train in China next month by the country's Olympic Committee, according to reports yesterday.
At 12 years old, Hend is the youngest Olympian at the Games since 1992 and had recently returned to her home country after losing in straight sets to Austria's Lui Jia, 39, in the opening round of the women's singles table tennis event.
Hend qualified for the Games after winning the Western Asia Olympic Qualification Tournament last year by beating 42-year-old Mariana Sahakian of Lebanon. She was one of Syria's flag bearers at Tokyo's Opening Ceremony and was the only female member of her country's six-athlete delegation.
The Youngest Syrian table tennis player in Olympic history Hend Zaza will go to China for professional training at the invitation of the Chinese Olympic Committee. pic.twitter.com/YsJCzjIyO9
— 曹 毅 CAO Yi أبو وسيم (@CaoYi_MFA) August 3, 2021
She was quoted in an interview with China's CCTV as saying: "I hope to reach the level of Chinese players. My dream is to be as strong as Chinese players."
"I want to go abroad for training so that I can make continuous progress and realise my championship dream," she added.
Born two years before the uprising and civil war broke out in Syria, Hend started playing table tennis aged five years old when her potential was discovered by coach Adham Jumaan while she was with her brother Obeida, a junior national champion.
— 🇸🇾 الــــــبَتُـولْ 🦋 (@Syriansall) July 24, 2021
Hend reportedly received a telephone call from Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad who expressed pride in her representation of the country at the Games.
On Sunday, Syria's SANA news agency reported that Hend was met by family and friends in addition to sports colleagues and the national media at the iconic Umayyad Square in Damascus and presented with a rose bouquet.