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Young Syrian Olympian hopes to learn from Chinese table tennis players

(Photo by Ammar Safarjalani/Xinhua)

 (Xinhua) -- Fascinated by their quick moves and sound rhythm, 12-year-old Hend Zaza, Syria's table tennis player and the youngest athlete at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, yearns to learn from her Chinese counterparts.

As the youngest table tennis player at Tokyo Olympics, Zaza caught the eyes of the whole world. She lost to Austria's player Liu Jia, 39, in straight sets in the preliminary round of the women's singles.

"It's very tough, but I had to fight for it. This is my message to everyone who has the same situation - fight for your dream, and try hard regardless of the difficulties that you are having, you will reach your goal," Zaza said.

Zaza told Xinhua that Ma Long and Ding Ning, two famous Chinese table tennis players, were her favorite, and she wants to be like them one day.

"They have very quick moves and spins, and I tried to learn their moves from video," she said, adding that she wants to go on the training camp in China.

After returened to Syria, the table tennis prodigy has been busy training to take part in an upcoming table tennis championship that will be held soon in Jordan.

However, she worried about failing to make her trip, given the road toward the neighboring country has been blocked by recent skirmishes between the army and local armed men in Syria's southern province of Daraa.

The harsh training condition in Syria has affected many players of Zaza's team, as many of them have to share only four table tennis tables and one bag of balls. There is even no shooting ball machines or new rackets for these players.

Muhammad Ogli, one of Zaza's coaches, told Xinhua that the economic situation and the sanctions have largely affected the sports field in Syria.

The spread of COVID-19 has also cast its shadow over the sport life of players as they can not easily take part in external training camps, he added.

Ali Hallaq, another coach, said under the situation in Syria, Zaza has persevered to reach her dream to play in an international arena.

"She has a strong ambition," Hallaq told Xinhua, adding the game in Tokyo was a crowning of Zaza and her perseverance and efforts.

"It is a very significant achievement for a 12-year-old player to participate in such an international championship among major players," he said.

Despite the crisis and war, Zaza believes that "nothing is impossible, and athletes should train and have a dream always."  

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