Photo: María T. OrroMonica Puig (PUR)
Ever since making her Fed Cup by BNP Paribas debut for Puerto Rico aged just 14 in 2008, Monica Puig has relished representing her country on the international stage.
But while the 20-year-old world No. 69 has already won 16 matches on Fed Cup duty, one experience of competing in country colours stands out above the rest – when she took part in the Singapore 2010 Youth Olympic Games.
“Being a part of the Puerto Rican team to go to the Youth Olympic Games was amazing and it was such a great experience,” remembers Puig. “I think it’s every player's dream to participate in some kind of Olympic Games and even though it was the junior Olympics it was so special to me. It made it a goal for me to hopefully play in the Rio Olympic Games coming up [in 2016].”
Puig, who hails from a nation of just 3.5million people, admits the Puerto Rican team that took part at Singapore 2010 was smaller than the majority of others. But that, she says, made the experience all the more memorable.
“Since the Puerto Rican team was not a lot of people, we all stayed relatively close,” Puig says. “Every night we were joking around, spending time with one another and really backing each other up. It was a great experience for me to get close to some very new and good friends that I have now and it was just so great to be a part of something so special.
“It’s also amazing to meet other people in this world who are doing more or less the same thing as you just in a different sport,” she added. “It’s nice to know you’re not alone in this world in the struggle of being a competitive athlete.”
The second edition of the Youth Olympic Games takes place in Nanjing on 16-28 August, welcoming around 3,800 athletes to compete across 28 sports. And just like Nanjing 2014 will undoubtedly ensure, the Singapore event four years ago put on an incredible show for the athletes and spectators alike.
“The opening ceremony was crazy,” remembers Puig. “There were so many people, so many different countries all doing their own celebrations. People were going crazy for every single country as we started walking out.
“The Olympic Village was buzzing with excitement all the time too. It was really one of the greatest experiences I’ve ever had.”
With that in mind, Puig says that those juniors set to take part in Nanjing should – and no doubt will – enjoy every moment at the Games.
“Basically just live it up,” she said, by way of advice. “It’s a once in a lifetime experience. Don’t put any pressure on yourself because it’s definitely an enjoyable experience to be there and be selected for your country to play.”