The second Asian Youth Games is underway in Nanjing, China giving the finest young athletes on the continent a multisport platform to showcase their skills and talents - including in the newest Olympic team sport of Rugby Sevens.
Featuring 122 events played across 16 sports, the event is also providing the city of Nanjing with a dress rehearsal exactly one year out from hosting the 2014 Youth Olympic Games.
2014 will be the first time that Rugby Sevens forms part of the Youth Olympics, two years out from its full Olympic Games debut in Rio in 2016.
This weekend, Japan start as strong contenders for gold in both the men's and women's events in Nanjing and for their young athletes the stage is a perfect career stepping stone.
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"Having participated in international Sevens competitions like the Australian Youth Olympic Festival in Sydney this January, competing in Rugby Sevens in the Olympics is now truly my goal," said the captain of Japanese men's team in Nanjing, 17-year-old Tatsuhiro Nagai.
"I'd like to come back to Nanjing for the Youth Olympic Games next year and it's my dream to represent my country in Rio de Janeiro in 2016."
Minori Yamamoto, 16-year-old captain of Japan's women's team, added: "Playing on the world's grandest stage of the Olympic Games is my greatest ambition, and it gives me a huge motivation behind every day's hard training sessions.
"We are here in Nanjing to win Gold medals and hopefully in one year's time we will repeat that at the Youth Olympic Games, which would lead me to my ultimate goal of winning a gold in Rio."
The one year landmark from the Youth Olympics has not only struck a chord with Asia's athletes. Having competed at the Youth Olympic Festival on home soil in Sydney earlier this year, Australia's best young athletes have also experienced something akin to the true Olympic buzz at close quarters.
"It was an honour to represent Australia in January and winning gold in front of a home crowd made it extra special," said 17-year-old Tiana Penitani, who went on to become one of the stars at the Rugby World Cup Sevens in Moscow in June.
"Having Sevens in the Youth Olympic programme has driven lots of interest in the game and that experience has fuelled my desire to be involved in the programme all the way to Rio."
Player Quotes of Support
“More than anything, Sevens embodies the Olympic ideals of camaraderie, fair play and respect on and off the field of play.” – Shane Williams, Wales
“You play sport at the highest level to challenge yourself to be the best that you can possibly be and to compete with the best from all over the world, and what better stage to do that on than at the Olympics?” – Sue Day, England
“Going to the Commonwealth Games was amazing and to have the chance to go to the Olympics would be right up there with anything you could possibly dream of doing in sport.” – Tamati Ellison, New Zealand
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