Andrea Paoli and Tvine Moumjohglian are two young female athletes from Lebanon who have recently made the cut for this summer’s Olympic Games in London.
Nineteen-year-old Paoli has been practicing taekwondo since she was seven. The business student won the bronze medal at the Asian Games last year, making her the first Lebanese in history to participate in the senior category of Martial Arts at the Olympics.
“The preparations have been difficult but this is my dream come true. I still can’t believe that I am going to participate at the Olympics this summer,” Paoli said during a short break from practice at the Mont La Salle club in north Beirut.
While the road to London is a challenging one, Paoli remains optimistic.
“The competition is undoubtedly strong. We all know it has been more than 30 years since Lebanon got a medal at the Olympics, but I am not going there for fun; I will do my best. I know that there are 16 girls in my category, and I know them all; they all deserve a medal. My dream is to reach the podium, not just to compete at the games. My dream is to raise Lebanon’s flag,” Paoli said, sweat dripping from her face as she prepared to resume practice.
Moumjoghlian will not only be making her debut at the Olympics but will also be representing Lebanon in table tennis for the first time in 16 years.
The economics graduate has been playing table tennis since she was nine and currently trains alongside her brother Avo as well as members of her Homenetmen Club.
She considers her father, a professional table tennis player and national champion for 17 years, as her main source of inspiration.
Moumjoghlian was the only table tennis participant to qualify for the Olympics after winning all the fame at the West Asian Championship in October 2011.
She says that since her return she has been training harder than ever and is looking forward to having a Chinese coach assist her next month on her journey to the Olympics.
The two young women and hand cyclist Edward Maalouf, who will compete in the Paralympics, are the only qualified athletes so far. The Olympic Committee of Lebanon expects two swimmers and two other competitors for the athletic games to qualify in the coming months.