By Greer Wilson
At just 12 years old, Syrian table tennis player Hend Zaza is the youngest competitor at the Tokyo Olympics. According to Olympedia.org, Zaza is in line to become the youngest Olympian since 11-year-old Carlos Front competed in rowing at the 1980 Moscow Games. Zaza is also one of the youngest Olympians of all-time; the youngest known female Olympian is Cecilia Colledge, who was 11 years, 107 days when she competed in figure skating at the 1932 Olympic Winter Games in Lake Placid.
She is also the only woman in Syria’s six-athlete delegation (across all sports) and she represented Syria as flag bearer during the Opening Ceremony.
The table tennis prodigy begins competition on Saturday, in the preliminary round of women’s singles. Zaza will compete against 39-year-old Austrian Liu Jia. The women’s singles tournament continues through week one of the Olympics, with the final scheduled for July 30.
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Zaza secured her spot for the Olympics in February 2020, after defeating 42-year-old Mariana Sahakian of Lebanon at the West Asia Olympic Table Tennis Qualification Tournament.
At the age of five, Zaza was discovered by Coach Adham Jumaan while playing ping pong with her brother Obeida, a junior national tennis table champion. Over the years, Zaza became a decorated champion; she is the sole Syrian player to win national titles in four age groups (Hopes, Cadets, Junior, and Senior).
During the Olympics, you can also catch up on all of the major storylines in women’s sports by watching “On Her Turf @ The Olympics,” a 30-minute show that will stream for free on Peacock. Hosted by Lindsay Czarniak, MJ Acosta-Ruiz, and Lolo Jones, the show kicks off on Saturday, July 24, and will stream every day of the Games (Monday-Saturday at 7pm ET and Sundays at 6pm ET).