Four-year-old Alex Hua Tian took up horse riding in Beijing's suburbs and 14 years later became a history maker in the equestrian world.
He was the first Chinese rider registered by the International Equestrian Federation (FEI) and the first Chinese rider to compete in three-day eventing at an international equestrian event, which includes dressage, jumping and cross-country competitions.
On Sunday, the 18-year-old Eton College student became the first Chinese eventer to qualify for the Beijing Olympic Games and the youngest rider to take part in this event at the Olympics.
Alex Hua Tian competes on Jeans at Bialy Bor, Poland on Sunday. (Insert) Alex Hua Tian and his sponsor Jiang Fengcan (left)
At one of the Olympic qualifiers in Bialy Bor, Poland, last week, Hua passed the Olympic qualification standards after finishing second, fifth and seventh, respectively, on FBW Chico, Jeans and Castlebanny Prince. The confirmation of his Olympic berth by FEI will arrive soon, his father Hua Shan said.
"His mother called me from (Poland) and she was so excited she couldn't speak a complete sentence and cried," Hua Shan said.
"Alex was of course quite happy but kept cool as usual. He told me the horses had been wonderful.
"We all believed that Alex could qualify for the Olympics but we didn't expect it to come so soon. The average age of Olympic event riders is around 35 and what he has achieved at such a young age is really amazing."
As host country, China was automatically allocated six berths in equestrian events - four in jumping, one in dressage and another in eventing. Even so, Chinese riders and their four-legged partners need to satisfy the minimum standards at specified events that take place between Jan 1, 2007, and June 30, 2008.
"We were very happy to hear the news but not that surprised," Chinese Equestrian Association director Cheng Qing said.
"Hua Tian is such a talented rider and has already shown that he is capable of qualifying for the Olympics. All he needs now is more match experience."
Hua's Chinese sponsor Jiang Fengcan, who is also the owner of the horses, said he was proud of his decision to back the youngster.
"I was a little bit nervous before he qualified for the Olympics but now I am relieved," he said.
"I have known Hua Tian for years and always believed he would make history at the Olympics."
According to the rules, an eventer can take just one horse to Olympic competition and Hua needs to choose from the three qualified horses.