Rio-bound Chen Feng started in a Jinzhou public gym
Chen's journey to the Olympics via S'pore started in a public gym in Liaoning
He pinched himself towards the end of the match against his teammate in the South-east Asia segment of the table tennis Asia Olympic qualifiers in Hong Kong last week.
And after Chen Feng beat Li Hu 4-2 (11-8, 11-8, 6-11, 11-8, 9-11, 11-4) in the final to clinch an Olympic men's singles spot, he pinched himself again.
"It was like a dream," said the 22-year-old after training yesterday.
"In the sixth game I held quite a sizeable lead, but I was trying hard to focus because there was every chance that Li Hu could fight back."
The unfancied world No. 149 beat the likes of Thailand's Padasak Tanviriyavechakul and teammate Gao Ning, ranked 27th in the world, before defeating Li Hu for the Olympic spot.
Chen said: "Before the tournament, I thought I had a slim chance; my main opponents were my teammates and the Thai player.
"But, before we left for Hong Kong we had a meeting to discuss every player from Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand... I train with my teammates every day and was familiar with their play, so I thought I still had a chance."
The Jinzhou native, who arrived in Singapore in 2010, had the toughest draw among the four Singaporeans - Yang Zi was also in action - and surprisingly found the 4-0 (11-2, 11-4, 11-7, 11-5) mauling of Gao in the semi-finals his most "relaxing" match.
"I didn't think I would beat him 4-0, but I was the most relaxed I ever was in Hong Kong against Gao Ning because I train with him every day and have even beaten him at the Kuwait Open a few years ago.
"Also, he wasn't playing too well that day, and I was playing very well in that match."
Men's national coach Liu Jiayi said: "I think the key to his success was that he had a strong desire (to play in the Olympics), and he had the goods to back it up.
"Before the competition, we drilled him in improving his basics, and he now has more initiative in attack."
Chen's journey to Rio began in a public gym in Jinzhou, a prefecture of China's Liaoning province, in 2000.
"I thought it looked fun and just started to play, while my parents chatted with their friends on the sidelines," he recalled.
He trained under the gym's coach for a year before moving on to a sports school.
Eighteen months later, he started training with the provincial team.
It was not too long after that that he broke into China's national youth team as one of the younger players in the squad.
But being years younger than the likes of China's world No. 3 Xu Xin meant that Chen was regularly losing to his teammates, even if he was among the top three in his batch of Liaoning youth paddlers.
He jumped at the chance to come to Singapore in 2010, and it was on these sunny shores that competing at the Olympics started becoming a possibility.
And while possibility has turned into reality, Chen is under no illusions about how his debut in Rio will turn out to be in August.
He acknowledged that he had loads to work on, but said: "I will fight in every match and gain all the experience I can, so that I can be more ready, along with Clarence (Chew), to lead the Singapore team at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics."