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Lebanese athlete Mariana Sahakian will compete in the upcoming Paris Olympics from July 26 to August 11. The table tennis player from the Nadwa (Kmatieh) club secured her spot this Sunday during a qualification tournament in Iraq.

Lebanese table tennis champion Mariana Sahakian qualified for the Summer Olympics in Paris, which will take place from July 26 to August 11, after winning the women’s singles title at the West Asia Championship held in Sulaymaniyah, Iraq. Sahakian earned her Olympic ticket by defeating Syrian player Hind Zaza (4-1) in the championship final. She secured her place in the women’s singles event as the highest-ranked table tennis player from her region. Prior to this, Sahakian had eliminated Bahrain’s champion, Maryam Alali, in the semifinals with a score of 4-0 to reach the final.

Born in Armenia

Born in September 2, 1977 in Armenia, Mariana Sahakian acquired Lebanese nationality through marriage in 2002. That same year, she moved to Lebanon with her husband and quickly joined the Homenetmen club, where she became the Lebanese champion in 2003. Standing at 1.55 meters, she dominated the local championship until 2007, when she returned to Armenia. Unsurprisingly, she also won all the local titles there for six years.

In 2014, she returned to Lebanon and joined the Nadwa (Kmatieh) club, with which she won the national championship three seasons in a row. Two years later, Sahakian qualified for the 2016 Rio Olympics after triumphing at the West Asia Championship in Hong Kong, joining the ranks of the top 64 table tennis players worldwide to represent their countries at the Olympics. Unfortunately, in Rio, she was eliminated in the preliminary round of the women’s singles event by Nigerian player Olufunke Oshonaike. Four years later, she narrowly missed qualifying for the 2020 Olympics against her regional rival, Syrian Hind Zaza.

The explosion on August 4, 2020 prompted her to seek more favorable conditions once again. She decided to return to Armenia, where she has resided since, while making trips back to participate in local and regional competitions with her Nadwa club. For Mariana Sahakian, the Olympic dream became a reality through hard work and perseverance, but also thanks to a lot of talent. By participating in the Olympics, Sahakian will be only the fourth table tennis player from Lebanon to take part in this great international sports event, following Larissa Chouaib in 1996 in Atlanta, Tvin Carole Moumjoghlian in 2012 in London and herself in 2016 in Rio.

Georges Kopaly

Contacted by This Is Beirut on Sunday, the President of the Lebanese Table Tennis Federation, Georges Kopaly, had nothing but praise for her. “Mariana Sahakian has extraordinary talent. Her style is unpredictable, and she always surprises her opponents with well-placed shots. She trains exclusively with male partners because her level is so high locally!” Kopaly revealed bitterly that, unlike other table tennis players representing their countries at the Paris Games, Mariana has a limited budget. The Federation has not received any state funding for five years. “Nevertheless, qualifying is an achievement in itself for our poor country,” Kopaly added proudly. “Who knows, maybe Mariana will create a huge surprise in Paris?” We wish her all the best.