Photo: Eisele/Giubilo/ZimmerTimea Babos (HUN)
It’s nearly four years since she took part in the event as a talented teenager, but Timea Babos still has vivid memories of the inaugural Youth Olympic Games held in Singapore in 2010.
The 21-year-old Hungarian took home a bronze medal in the girls’ doubles event and reached the semifinals of the girls' singles, and though she is “old now” and not participating in the 2014 Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing, Babos looks back fondly on her 2010 experience.
“I was really excited when I heard that I was able to play the first Youth Olympics in Singapore,” remembers Babos. “It was huge fun for me. I got to the semis in singles and also in doubles and I got to take home one medal, so I was really, really happy.
“It was also the first time for me to [travel with tennis] in a big team – tennis is such an individual sport so I was really happy that I could meet all the other athletes from Hungary.”
Last week, Babos became the first Singapore Youth Olympian to reach a senior Grand Slam final when she partnered France’s Kristina Mladenovic to a runner-up finish in the women’s doubles at Wimbledon.
While her career has gone from strength to strength since competing in Singapore four years ago, Babos, who also competed at London 2012, says that the experience provided long-lasting friendships to go along with the great memories.
“I have a lot of friends from those [Singapore 2010] athletes and my best friend is another swimmer,” said Babos. “As I said it was a great experience. Singapore held it so well – it was a very, very nice event and a very nice place. I enjoyed every moment of it.”
For Babos, the unique element of participating in an Olympic tennis event is its close proximity to other sports, as well as the valuable opportunity to learn from and communicate with other athletes outside of tennis.
“I was sharing a room with the shooting girls,” Babos remembers. “It’s unbelievable how different the sports are and it’s interesting to see another side – how they prepare, how they practice, how different everything is in their sport.
“I went to watch the table tennis, swimming and handball. Handball and swimming are my favourite sports after tennis so I went to cheer all of them.”
Asked to offer her advice to those Youth Olympians competing at Nanjing 2014 in August, Babos urged all those competing to make the most of the opportunity.
“Definitely enjoy every moment of it because you never know if you are going to go to such a big and great event as the Youth Olympics again,” Babos offered. “Try to meet all the best athletes and just enjoy every moment."