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‘Fight for your dreams’ – Tokyo’s youngest Olympian exits

Tokyo’s youngest athlete Hend Zaza hopes to inspire other children to “follow their dreams” despite losing on her Olympic debut.

The 12-year-old Syrian table tennis player was beaten in the first round.

Zaza, whose childhood has been marred by war in her country, said she had to overcome “many different experiences” to reach the Games.

“My message to everyone who wishes to have the same situation: Fight for your dreams,” she added.

“Try hard, regardless of the difficulties that you’re having, and you will reach your goal.”

Zaza said jet lag, a busy build-up and facing a very experienced athlete were factors in her 4-0 loss to Austria’s Liu Jia on Saturday, but she was pleased with her mental preparation.

“Playing against a very experienced opponent is very tough, especially for my first Olympic match so it was very tough to mentally be prepared for it”, she said after her exit from the competition.

“But I think I managed somehow to overcome this, and this is the part that I think that I did the best during the match.”

Zaza was given the honour of being Syria’s female flagbearer for the opening ceremony on Friday. But she said the long day leading up to her early match contributed towards her feeling “out of [her] comfort zone”.

“Next time I will be working hard to pass the first, second, third round, because I want to be in this competition longer, not only for the first round,” she added.