First Olympic memories: Athletes share the stories that ignited their love for the Games 

The Olympic Cauldron is lit at the Olympic Boulevard for the 2016 Rio Summer Olympic Games (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
The Olympic Cauldron is lit at the Olympic Boulevard for the 2016 Rio Summer Olympic Games (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)

With just one year to go until next year's Games, Tokyo 2020 asked athletes around the world about their very first memories of the Olympics. In the second of three features, Tokyo 2020 speaks to XU Lijia, Nathan Hirayama, Privel Hinkati, Vivian Kong and Alberto Munárriz. 

XU Lijia, People's Republic of China, Sailing

London 2012 Olympic Laser Radial gold medallist Beijing 2008 bronze medallist.

XU Lijia of People's Republic of China celebrates winning gold in the Laser Radial Women's Sailing at the London 2012 Olympic Games (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
XU Lijia of People's Republic of China celebrates winning gold in the Laser Radial Women's Sailing at the London 2012 Olympic Games (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
2012 Getty Images

A little seed had deeply rooted inside my heart

and I started to train hard and smart.

"I remember when I was a little girl and watching the Sydney Olympic Games. My father sort of teased me by saying, ‘Lilly, when will I see you in front of the television and you are participating in the Olympic Games?’ My reply was ‘maybe’, because I wasn’t so sure whether I can reach it and I wasn’t so confident at all."

"But at that time a little seed had deeply rooted inside my heart and I started to train hard and smart. In a year’s time I won the world championship in the optimist sailing class and went on to defend it the next year. Although for some reason I missed the 2004 Athens Olympic Games, I finally realised my dream and appeared on the stage of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, and I got a bronze at that time. In four years time I became an Olympic champion in London 2012."

XU Lijia talks about her first Olympic memory 

Nathan Hirayama, Canada, Rugby 7s

2013 Rugby World Cup Sevens top scorer and Plate competition winner.

Nathan Hirayama of Canada scores a try during the Pool A match against Scotland at the HSBC Rugby Sevens Singapore on April 13, 2019 (Photo by Suhaimi Abdullah/Getty Images for Singapore Sports Hub)
Nathan Hirayama of Canada scores a try during the Pool A match against Scotland at the HSBC Rugby Sevens Singapore on April 13, 2019 (Photo by Suhaimi Abdullah/Getty Images for Singapore Sports Hub)
2019 Getty Images

Any time the Canadians are pushing for medals,

they definitely inspire me.

"I remember my earlier Olympics for me were Donavan Bailey, him winning in Atlanta. That is one that sticks out to me."

"Simon Whitfield, the triathlete, I think he won two medals. He's from Victoria as well. Super inspiring guy and I know a lot of us Canadians grew up watching his races."

"Those are the ones that kind of stick out to me. Any time the Canadians are pushing for medals, they definitely inspire me."

Atlanta 1996 - Bailey wins the 100m final and breaks the world record
01:46

Privel Hinkati, Benin, Rowing

The first and only rower from Benin to qualify for an Olympic Games.

Privel Hinkati of Benin competes in the Men's Single Sculls heats during the 2016 World Rowing Cup II at Rotsee (Photo by Philipp Schmidli/Getty Images)
Privel Hinkati of Benin competes in the Men's Single Sculls heats during the 2016 World Rowing Cup II at Rotsee (Photo by Philipp Schmidli/Getty Images)
2016 Getty Images

Without any doubt, the Beijing Opening Ceremony is THE opening ceremony out of every one I could attend.

"My first Olympic memory was in Beijing. I was lucky enough to be there. It was the Opening Ceremony. It was grandiose."

"There were so many people, I don’t know what word could describe the crowd, the fervour of the people. So I told myself: An event like that, so many people gathered together with such fervour, it affected me so much and that gave me the will to participate."

"Then what happened next [in Beijing] was the same vibe as the Opening Ceremony. For me, without any doubt, the Beijing Opening Ceremony is THE opening ceremony out of every one I could attend."

Privel Hinkati talks about his first Olympic memory 

Kong Man Wai Vivian, Hong Kong, China, Fencing

World number 7 in Women's Epee, Rio 2016 Olympian and the first fencer from Hong Kong, China to win a World Cup event.

Barcelona, 8-10 February 2019
 World Cup Epee Women 
 Photo by: Eva Pavía / Bizzi Team
Barcelona, 8-10 February 2019 World Cup Epee Women Photo by: Eva Pavía / Bizzi Team
@BIZZI TEAM

I promised myself that I must work really hard in the next four years

so that I can go the Olympics again and hopefully do better in Tokyo 2020.

"Watching the women's epee individual finals between Szasz and Fiamingo. I love and look up to both fencers and it was incredible watching them fence at the finals. I cried after Szasz hit the last touch and I was so happy for her. I got really emotional watching Szasz celebrate with her coach and I thought I wanted to make my coach proud too."

"The next day, I bumped into Szasz at the Olympic Village and we took a picture together and she even let me hold her gold medal! [It was] so heavy!! Rio 2016 was my first Olympics and looking back I was disappointed in myself because I was more like an excited kid and a complete tourist. I promised myself that I must work really hard in the next four years so that I can go the Olympics again and hopefully do better in Tokyo 2020."

Szasz beats Fiamingo 15-13 for Women's Epee gold
01:41

Alberto Munárriz, Spain, Water Polo

Rio 2016 Olympian and two-time European Championship silver medallist.

Alberto Munarriz Egana (white) of Spain takes a shot on goal during the Men's Water Polo, Group C preliminary match against Serbia at the Budapest 2017 FINA World Championships (Photo by Adam Pretty/Getty Images)
Alberto Munarriz Egana (white) of Spain takes a shot on goal during the Men's Water Polo, Group C preliminary match against Serbia at the Budapest 2017 FINA World Championships (Photo by Adam Pretty/Getty Images)
2017 Getty Images

I remember that I lived through those Games with hope.

“My best memory was the Beijing Olympic Games. I was 14-years-old, so those were the first Games that I followed a lot. I remember the world records achieved by Bolt and Michael Phelps, they were spectacular. I remember that I lived through those Games with hope.”

Phelps conquers all in Beijing
02:13