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If the Olympics Happen, This 11-Year-Old Will Be There

Organizers continue debate what to do amidst the coronavirus epidemic
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 6, 2020 9:43 AM CST

(Newser) – An 11-year-old girl from Syria is set to become the fifth-youngest Olympian in history. The Guardian reports Hend Zaza qualified for the Tokyo Games in table tennis, a sport that has no minimum age, upon winning a qualifying tournament in Jordan last week. Hend, who is ranked 155th in the International Table Tennis Federation world rankings, defeated 42-year-old Mariana Sahakian of Lebanon to take home the women's singles title at the Western Asia Olympic qualifier. Born Jan. 1, 2009, she'll be the youngest competitor at the Games—British skateboarder Sky Brown will turn 12 two weeks before the July 24 opening ceremony—or at any Games since Romanian figure skater Beatrice Hustiu competed in 1968 at age 11 years and 158 days, per CBS Sports.

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What the Games will look like remains unclear amid the novel coronavirus outbreak, which has put a halt on most sporting events in Japan, per the AP. During a conference call with the World Health Organization last week, medical officers representing international sports federations discussed the possibility of having some 10,000 athletes compete without fans in the stands, reports the New York Times. International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach said this week that the IOC will ultimately follow WHO advice. But he said the words "cancellation" and "postponement" have yet to be uttered. Some final Olympic qualifiers have been cancelled or postponed, however, which could mean lost opportunities for athletes. Without spectators, Tokyo could see losses to the tune of $850 million, per the Times. (Read more Olympics stories.)

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