Since winning doubles bronze at the Youth Olympic Games (YOG) Singapore 2010, Hungarian tennis star Tímea Babos has become one of the leading lights on the global tennis circuit, winning three Grand Slam doubles titles as well as three successive WTA finals. Here, she relives her YOG experiences.
We recently marked the 10th anniversary of the Youth Olympic Games Singapore 2010. How do you reflect on your time at the YOG?
“I loved every moment of it! It was a great experience and I got to form some friendships that are still lasting. I met some great athletes, I got to feel the power of playing for your country and representing it at the Olympic Games. Of course, I had been part of the Junior Fed Cup team, but the Youth Olympics was different. Winning a bronze medal in doubles was a great feeling. An-Sophie [Mestach] is a great girl and I was happy to share the joy with her. The pride that I felt still gives me goosebumps. Since then, I have competed at two Olympic Games, and I can't wait to do it again.”
What are your favourite memories from Singapore?
“Singapore has become one of my favourite cities – [because of] the Youth Olympics and, of course, [the fact that] I won two WTA finals there in recent years. The vibe is great, the city is so lively, the people are friendly. I always enjoy returning there and luckily, nowadays, I am able to fly my family out there too, so they get to experience the best of Singapore. As I mentioned before, I also made some very dear friends within the Hungarian team, which I am grateful for.”
Just two years after the YOG, you were competing at the Olympic Games London 2012. Did your experiences in Singapore help prepare you for London?
“I have competed at many big events, and played in some Grand Slam finals, so I thought I was prepared for what was coming. However, the Opening Ceremony, and putting the Hungarian national outfit on, was a humbling experience.”
How do you reflect on your Olympic experiences in London and Rio?
“Of course, it's every athlete's dream. Tennis is a bit of a special sport, though, since for us, winning a Slam is also huge, but I am very fond of my Olympic memories and will proudly tell my grandchildren. They will probably be bored of me telling them all about London, Rio and, hopefully, Tokyo!”
How did you feel when the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 were postponed?
“Like every athlete, I am of course saddened by the turn of events. However, I do understand the decision. The consequences are extremely damaging, but I hope that 2021 will be a great year.”
How have your life and your training been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic?
“For the first five weeks or so, I didn't really touch a tennis racket. As a professional athlete, sport is, and always has been, a significant part of who I am, so I did some light workouts every day – just not the hardcore stuff. I am not going to lie – it is hard to find motivation when you don't know what event you are training for. Tennis was one of the last sports that restarted, and I personally still haven't competed yet due to travel restrictions. I got to spend time with my family and friends. I finally got to celebrate my birthday at home. This hasn't happened in over a decade. I scheduled some holidays at Lake Balaton, I started an online interior design course and, of course, tried to perfect my French. Overall, it was quite relaxing and enjoyable, but I do miss the Tour, so I am ready to go again.”
What are your goals for Tokyo 2020?
“I would love to qualify in the singles too; that has been a goal of mine for 2020, so it hasn't changed for 2021. It would be amazing to win a medal – doubles or singles, of course – but I still have a lot of work to do for that dream to come true.”