MONTEVIDEO, July 10 (Xinhua) -- Victor Rostagno dreams of becoming the first Uruguayan gymnast to bring home an Olympic medal.
In a country where football rules, Rostagno, 20, found that the key to his Olympic ambitions lies thousands of kilometers away, in China, where he has visited frequently since 2016 to perfect his technique.
In China, "I learned new techniques," Rostagno told Xinhua, describing them as "incredible."
"The instructors show you a small movement and your technique changes a ton," the 1.55-meter-tall athlete said.
His first three-month training session in the central Chinese city of Changsha in 2016 was demanding but paid off immediately. He returned to train in 2018 and 2019.
"After the [first] trip to China, I got two medals in the floor exercise and vault at the Pan American Gymnastics [Championship] and a gold medal in the floor exercise at the South American Artistic Gymnastics Championships," he said, too modest to mention that they were Uruguay's first medals in the sport.
A year later, he made history again, securing Uruguay's first medal in artistic gymnastics at the South American Games in Cochabamba, Bolivia, winning a silver medal in the vault.
More than 300 Uruguayan athletes have traveled to China since 2016 to receive high-performance technical training as part of a cooperation agreement signed between the two governments.
In addition to learning new techniques, training in China can help an athlete take his skills to another level because "it is not the same to be training here on a schedule and be worried about other things, than to be there [in China], train full time and just worry about the training," Rostagno said.
The impact has also been seen "in other sports that did not win medals but saw an improvement in their performance, such as judo or table tennis," he said.
Rostagno is mainly training in the floor exercise and vault, but also venturing into the individual all-around category, because of not having a complete team, qualifying for the Olympic Games is more complicated.
"There are very few of us who practise this sport in Uruguay," he said.
The gymnast is currently preparing to compete at the 2019 Pan American Games in Lima, Peru later this month.
Filled with enthusiasm, Rostagno travels every afternoon from his home in the city of La Paz, 26 kilometers from the capital Montevideo, to train at Club Olimpia, on the city's northern outskirts.
Rostagno trains every weekday for four hours, aiming to deliver a "near perfect performance" that will win him a medal and bring him closer to Tokyo 2020.