What were you doing at the age of 12? Most kids of that age are doing their school homework, and preparing for the weekly test and probably you were doing the same when you were 12.

Then, there is the tennis prodigy Hend Zaza from Syria, who is all of 12 years and all set to rub shoulders with the best in the business in the world’s biggest sporting carnival.

She had qualified for the Olympics when she was 11.

Born in 2009, Hend Zaza is the first Syrian to compete in the Olympic table tennis through qualification. Before her, fellow Syrian Heba Allejji had participated in the 2016 Rio Olympics but that was through invitation by the Tripartite Commission. She will not only be the youngest in this Olympics but also the youngest ever to compete in Olympic table tennis and the fifth-youngest overall since the modern Olympics began.

Last year, as an 11-year-old, she had defeated then 42-year-old Mariana Sahakian of Lebanon in the West Asia Olympic Qualification Tournament in Jordan in February 2020 which opened her door to Tokyo.

She has been playing since the age of 5 and trains at the Al-Muhafaza Table Tennis Club in Damascus. She is also the first Syrian table tennis player to win national titles in all the four eligible categories – hopes, cadets, juniors and seniors. The war situation in Syria had created major hurdles in her preparations but it also speaks highly about the grit and determination of the young athlete, who has certainly defied all obstacles and has come so far. Definitely a ray of hope and inspiration for her countrymen.

While we hope that Hend Zaza does well for herself in the Tokyo Olympics, there are others too who have defied their age and are competing in the world’s biggest multi-sport extravaganza. Kokona Hiraki, who will be representing Japan in skateboarding is also 12 years old. She had qualified for this edition of the Olympics after finishing fifth at the Dew Tour event. Another super young athlete, 13-year-old Sky Brown will be representing Great Britain in the Tokyo Olympics and will be the youngest British Olympian. Well, it is not only about the young ones. 66-year-old Mary Hanna who will be competing for Australia in Equestrian will be the oldest athlete in Tokyo Olympics. 

Young or old, tall or short, well, nothing will matter as everybody will be treated as equals when they compete against each other to determine sporting supremacy, in the next few weeks. After all, it’s the Olympics, where for over 100 years, the world has been coming together to celebrate sports and sportsmanship.

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