TOKYO (Reuters) – Syrian Hend Zaza, 12 the youngest athlete competing in the Tokyo Olympics, left the table tennis tournament in the first round on Saturday, taking a selfie with her Austrian opponent to remember the ‘opportunity.
Zaza faced an opponent over three times her age, Liu Jia, 39, in the women’s singles preliminary round, but showed no signs of nervousness, keeping his cool despite a 4-0 loss.
“It was very hard to mentally prepare for (the Olympics) but I think I got through that somehow, and that’s the part I think I got. do the best during the match, ”Zaza told reporters after the match.
“The main lesson was the loss of this game, especially in the first game. So next time I will work hard to pass the first, the second, the third round, because I want to play more in this competition,” he said. she added.
Her trainer Adham Jamaan told reporters the paddler should continue to train and she “will be fine”.
The youngest Olympian since 11-year-old Spanish rower Carlos Front in 1992. Zaza was born in Hama, Syria, to a sporting family and started playing table tennis at the age of five.
She was only able to participate in two or three away matches a year due to the Syrian civil war, Jamaan said.
Frequent power outages also restricted her from practicing occasionally only during daylight hours.
But Zaza broke all records after winning the West Asia Olympic qualifying tournament in Jordan last year, becoming the first Syrian paddler to qualify for the Olympics.
“Over the past five years, I have had many different experiences, especially with the war going on in the country and the postponement of funding for the Olympics,” Zaza said.
“It was very difficult, but I had to fight for it. And this is my message to everyone in the same situation – fight for your dream. Try hard no matter what difficulties you have. and you will achieve your hope. “
(Reporting by Eimi Yamamitsu; Editing by Peter Rutherford)