NANJING - On his first visit to China, local swimmer Darren Chua did not know what to expect.
But the 14-year-old, who admits he hates studying history, certainly did not expect the trip would give him a new-found appreciation for the subject in this ancient city, once China's capital for six dynasties.
He was in Nanjing on a five-day trip sponsored by Youth Olympic Games (YOG) official time-keeper Omega to watch the multi-sport event, through a partnership between the watchmaker and The Straits Times.
Naming the Xiaoling Mausoleum - which dates back to the Ming dynasty - as among the most memorable sights he had seen since arriving last Thursday, the Anglo-Chinese School (Independent) student said: "I learnt about it in school but never understood it. It's actually quite interesting."
Darren, who was accompanied by his father Harry, also got a front-row seat at the opening ceremony on Saturday before watching artistic gymnastics, fencing and beach volleyball.
But, as a swimmer who holds national Under-14 records for the 200m freestyle and 200m individual medley, his pick of the trip - unsurprisingly - was being able to watch some swimming semi-finals and finals at the Olympic Sports Centre.
He was able to catch Swimfast Aquatic Club team-mate Samantha Yeo in action in the women's 50m breaststroke semi-finals.
He also watched Vietnam's Nguyen Thi Anh Vien swim to gold in the women's 200m individual medley, beating established swimmers from nations like the United States to the title.
"I've seen her swim many times in regional competitions, and I didn't expect her to win, but she really went out very fast," he said.
The experience has given him fresh impetus to continue training hard in the hope of competing at the next YOG in Buenos Aires in 2018.
He said: "Hopefully the next time, I'll be at the YOG as a competitor. This was an eye-opener and I'd like to thank Omega for giving me this rare opportunity."
This article was first published on August 19, 2014.
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