The power of youth is being seen in all its glory at the ongoing Olympic Games in Tokyo. While a 13-year-old Japanese girl gave her country a Gold medal in skateboarding, a 12-year-old girl from Syria was given the honour of being the flag bearer for her country at the opening ceremony. In the judo competitions, a brother and sister from Japan, both in their early twenties, bagged gold medals on the same day within minutes of each other.
Imagine the pride and happiness that the parents of these young achievers must be feeling now.
War torn Syria sends Hend Zaza
During the opening ceremony, the girl who was holding up the Syrian flag was Hend Zaza whose age is only 12 years is a table tennis player is the youngest competitor to have qualified to participate in the Olympic Games. A few hours after serving as the flag bearer for her country, she took part in the table tennis competitions but lost to her 39 year old opponent Liu Jia, an Austrian player of Chinese origin who is playing in her 5th Olympics. Liu Jia has a daughter who is almost as old as Hend Zaza.
Zaza began playing table tennis six years ago as a means of diversion from the war in Syria. Her home in the city of Hama was destroyed in the conflict. Luckily the family survived and then moved to Damascus where she now trains. But even now the going is very difficult for her. Conditions are far from perfect in a hall with four rickety old tables, a concrete floor and frequent power failures.
Guided by her coach Aljamaan, she is now playing for Al-Muhafaza Table Tennis Club in Damascus. She became the first Syrian player to win national titles in all categories in which she was eligible, namely cadets, juniors and seniors.
Her father has arranged private teachers for her when she has been not able to attend classes due to her table tennis commitments. “I am committed to a daily programme of studying and training. My father provides teachers for me in the subjects and lessons that I miss during travel,” said the determined young lass.
Gold medalist Nishiya is only 13 years old
Japan’s Momiji Nishiya became one of the youngest individual Olympic champions in history when she won the inaugural women’s skateboarding gold at the age of 13 years and 330 days. Nishiya finished ahead of Brazil’s Rayssa Leal who is a few days younger than her. And the bronze medalist Funa Nayakama of Japan is another participant at 16. Looks like skateboarding, which is being held for the first time, is a sport for youngsters.
Each skater has two 45-second runs on the equipment and five shots at a one-off trick. Their best four scores out of the seven make up their final total.
Skateboarding is one of four sports making their debut in Tokyo, along with surfing, sport climbing and karate as part of an attempt to involve more youths in the Olympic Games.
First time in history, siblings bag Gold
In the judo competitions, two young siblings from Japan made their country proud. Hifumi Abe (23) and his sister Uta Abe (21) became the first brother and sister duo in Olympic history to both strike gold on the same day in an individual sport.
Uta’s gold came first after she won the final of the women’s 52kg Judo competition. Minutes later, her brother Hifumi did the same in the men’s Judo 60kg category.
Their coach Inoue Kosei hailed the amazing family achievement.
“Together, they have written their own chapter in history,” he said. “I think we’re witnessing the birth of two new stars in judo right before our own eyes.”
So this edition of the Olympic Games is throwing up several very young champions. The signs seem to be proclaiming that the future of international sport belongs to the youth of the world.