Asian players dominated the women’s events at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games; when play concluded on Thursday 5th August, that fact was crystal clear; every single medal available for a female player finished in the continent’s hands.
China, Japan and Hong Kong secured the respective gold, silver and bronze women’s team medals; earlier it had been mixed doubles success for Mima Ito, Liu Shiwen and Cheng I-Ching, followed by places on the women’s singles podium for Chen Meng, Sun Yingsha and Mima Ito.
Medal places, their efforts attracted the attention. However, there was another young lady who also caught the eye but departed the Metropolitan Gymnasium with no medals and not a win to her name.
Syria’s Hend Zaza was the youngest competitor in any sport in Tokyo, when beaten in the women’s singles preliminary round by Austria’s Liu Jia on Saturday 24th July, she 12 years and 204 days old.
Hend Zaza, the youngest ever in the table tennis events at an Olympic Games
Liu Jia at 39 years of age, the former European champion, was three times her senior!
Notably, Hend Zaza was the youngest Olympian since 1992 in Barcelona when Carlos Front (Spain) competed in rowing and Judit Kiss (Hungary) in swimming. At the start of the Barcelona Games on Saturday 25th July, Carlos Front was 11 years and 269 days old, Judit Kiss 12 years and 180 days old.
However, if the Games had been held as planned in 2020 and not been delayed owing to the pandemic, Hend Zaza would have been younger than both; when she won the West Asia qualification tournament in Amman, Jordan on Wednesday 26th February 2020, she was 11 years old and 56 days old.
Hend Zaza has written her names into the history books of the Olympic Games, the youngest ever in the table tennis events; now with Paris looming, can anyone match the youngest of all time?
The youngest known Olympian is Dimitrios Loundras (Greece). She was 10 years and 218 days old when she made her debut at the 1896 Games in Athens.
Photo Credit: ITTF