'World’s strongest girl' visits Syria to meet Bashar Assad and his wife
“I fly to Syria!!! I fly to the Syrian Arab Republic at the invitation by the First Lady of of Syria Asma al-Assad!” Maryana wrote on her Facebook page Monday.
Asma Akhras Assad invited Maryana, dubbed the world’s strongest girl, after the athlete said she would eagerly visit Syria to get first-hand experience of the situation there. In her YouTube video published Monday, Maryana said she would be meeting with students, athletes and female members of Syria’s Special Forces, who “are defending their homeland.”
Maryana says she is not going to Syria empty-handed.
“I have a small gift for Bashar Assad,” the athlete said in the YouTube video, later revealing to Govorit Moskva radio, that the present was her grandfather’s commander’s watch.
Shortly after arriving, the Russian athlete met with General Mowaffak Joumaa, the President of Syria’s national Olympic committee.
“I’m in Damascus, Syria, and everything is fine. The city is tremendous, lots of soldiers and checkpoints, just like in [the eastern Ukrainian region of] Donbass. But people live here and believe in victory,” she wrote on social media as she arrived in Damascus.
Maryana was in eastern Ukraine on a humanitarian mission from August 30 to September 5, 2015. She used her trip to also give several master classes for schoolchildren on powerlifting and workout routines.
Due to this visit, the powerlifting prodigy was stripped of all the awards and titles she had earned in Ukraine and, according to her father, placed on the country’s terror list. Additionally, an American sports nutrition company that had been sponsoring Maryana refused to renew her contract.
“IT is really sad that politics tampers with sports, but I am sure that I still have many interesting showings and records ahead,” she said in an interview with Interfax.
In March, Maryana met with Arnold Schwarzenegger while touring Ohio, where she set a new world bench press record for women in her age group by lifting 150 kilograms (330 pounds). Maryana delivered letters from the children of Donbass to ‘The Terminator’ and asked the former California governor to help improve relations between the US and Russia.
Maryana, a schoolgirl from the Moscow region, is a multiple female world record-holder in powerlifting and bench-press. She is the first Russian girl under 18 allowed to participate in professional powerlifting competitions. The prodigy has won more than 24 under-18 world records in weightlifting and is a winner and a record holder of such tournaments as the Arnold Classic and the Mister Olympia contest.