At Just 12 Years Old, Hend Zaza Is the Youngest Athlete at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games

The Syrian table tennis player qualified for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games when she won the West Asia qualifying tournament last year when she was just 11 years old. We feel unaccomplished.

By Tierney Bricker Jul 23, 2021 1:21 PMTags
Watch: 2020 Tokyo Olympics: By the Numbers

What were you doing when you were 12 years old? 

Chances are, you were ignoring your parents while playing video games or scrapping together money to go get pizza with your friends or possibly dreaming of the day your braces would be removed. Hend Zaza, however, isn't your typical pre-teen.

The Syrian is set to be the youngest competitor at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games, qualifying for the table tennis competition by winning the West Asia qualifying tournament when she was just 11 years old. To compare, we are in our thirties and had to force ourselves to go on a walk this morning.

"It is a gift for my country, my parents and all my friends," Zaza told Marca of competing in Tokyo.

As if qualifying for the Olympics isn't enough, Zaza is also the first Syrian table tennis player to win national titles at all levels. And she is the only female member on the six-person team competing for her home country's fourth-ever Olympic medal.

2020 Tokyo Olympics Opening Ceremony

But the pre-teen also has dreams aside from "becoming world champion and an Olympic champion," telling AFP she also wants to "finish my studies and become a pharmacist."


LOUAI BESHARA/AFP via Getty Images

In an interview with CGTN last year, Zaza, the youngest of four siblings, revealed she first "picked up the racket in 2014 when I was five years old. I was mainly attracted to table tennis when my brother Obaida Zaza became the Syrian national champion."

The self-proclaimed Harry Potter fan isn't the only 12-year-old competing in Tokyo though as Japanese skateboarder Kokona Hiraki is just a few months older than Zaza, and Skye Brown, a fellow skateboarder, is competing for Great Britain at the age of 13.

But the youngest athlete to ever compete at the Olympics was gymnast Dimitrios Loundras, who was just 10 years old when he competed in the first modern Games held in Athens in 1896. 

Check out E! News' 2022 Beijing Olympics homepage for news, photos and more.