Twelve-year-old Hend Zaza, Syrian table tennis prodigy and youngest athlete at the Tokyo Olympics , has been invited to train in China and is expected to arrive as early as September, state media said. Zaza, also the youngest Olympian since the 1992 Barcelona Games, lost to Austria’s Liu Jia in straight sets in the opening round of the women’s singles – her Games debut over in 24 minutes. Despite being knocked out, Zaza was a “great talent” with good rhythm and instincts, Liu, 39, told Xinhua. “When she is 14 or 16, she will be a strong opponent,” Liu said. “If she wants to make further progress, there may be few such opportunities for her in Syria. It is incredible that she can reach such a high level [of excellence] under the existing conditions in Syria,” she added. Zaza qualified for Tokyo after winning the Western Asia Olympic Qualification Tournament last year, becoming the youngest table tennis player to book a Games berth and the first Syrian paddler to do so through the qualifier. “I hope that I can become more powerful and make some gains in the 2024 Olympic Games,” Zaza told Chinese state broadcaster CCTV after her game in Tokyo. Born in western Syria in 2009, just two years before civil war broke out, Zaza started playing table tennis at the age of five. “During the conflict, we had a lot of difficulties, and we didn’t train much, or travel between cities, so I had to face hardships. Even the paddles and balls were difficult to obtain,” she said. Due to the ongoing war in Syria and a lack of competition funds, Zaza has been able to only participate in three international competitions every year at the most, which has left her lacking big competition experience, her coach told CCTV. For the past year, Zaza had been training for the Olympics mostly at the Al Faiha Club in Damascus, where power cuts are commonplace and there are no air conditioners. Upon learning of this, the Chinese Olympic Committee sent Zaza an invitation to train in the country after she won the Olympic qualifier last year. If all goes well, she is expected to head to China, a table tennis powerhouse, in September, according to CCTV. “I have been very much looking forward to training abroad, so that I can continue to make progress and realise my dream of becoming a champion,” Zaza told CCTV after her game in Tokyo. “I’m so excited about going to China to receive the same training as Chinese players, and I hope to become as good as them,” she said. “I cried after losing the game. I wish I could have done better.” Zaza’s role model is the top Chinese table tennis player and three-time Olympic gold medallist, Ding Ning. Ding posted words of encouragement for Zaza on Weibo after she qualified for the Tokyo Games, saying that she expected to see her perform better and looked forward to meeting her in China.