Over the next fortnight, the Herald will feature 12 Kiwi athletes or teams to keep an eye on at the Games - whether for their medal potential, rapid global rise, or captivating road to Tokyo. This is the story of Jack Lopas.
For most athletes, there are three key elements to winning an Olympic gold medal.
Blood, sweat and tears.
But for 22-year-old Jack Lopas, there's only one. Enjoyment.
It's that enjoyment that's not only kept Lopas motivated throughout his fledgling career, but helped secure a seat in the double sculls boat set to race at the Tokyo Olympics on Friday.
"That's where my strength lies, I keep the feeling light and make sure people enjoy it a little bit more," he said.
"We should be out there because we love it. Because we really want to succeed. It's not just all blood, sweat and tears."
Lopas, who was a student at Yale University in the US before returning home amid the Covid-19 pandemic, will make his Games debut rowing with experienced crew mate Chris Harris, three years earlier than anticipated.
His selection was, in large part, thanks to him winning the men's single sculls title at the national championships at Lake Ruataniwha in February ahead of Harris, John Storey and the now-retired rowing legend Mahe Drysdale.
It was a race Lopas describes as "unusual".
"Racing against Mahe was an odd feeling," he said. "Lining up against someone you've always seen at the pinnacle.
"You really are looking up to the people at the top level … so it's cool to be able to be alongside them."
The win put Lopas on the map and suddenly the dream he thought would only become reality at the 2024 Paris Games - at the earliest - was brought forward.
"I've always had my eyes on 2024 being my first Olympics but with Covid still pretty bad over in the States I had the option to take the year off, come back and join the New Zealand team and have a crack at Tokyo.
"Tokyo for me is a big surprise, I'm really fortunate that it's worked out this way; that I can get into the squad this year and I'm just really happy with how it's played out."
Although relatively new to the New Zealand elite rowing scene, Lopas knows how to deliver under pressure.
He and University of California doubles partner Ollie Maclean became the first duo to row for New Zealand while being based at a university abroad.
They won silver in the double sculls at the under-23 World Championships in 2019, after being part of the quad which won gold at the 2017 under-23s.
Meanwhile, his Tokyo partner, Harris, is sure to lead by example, with the experience of two Olympic Games under his belt.
When asked earlier this year how he felt they were tracking as a duo, Lopas beamed with confidence.
"We're in a really good place, every day, every training, just stepping forward a bit, chipping away at it 'til we get to where we want to be at for race day."
The build-up to Tokyo was like no other for New Zealand's rowers, with little to no opportunities to race overseas amid the pandemic.
But Lopas was relatively unfazed, again, drawing on similar experiences rowing in the US.
"The build-up has still been a bit weird, but probably more weird for everyone else because to me this is kind of like a normal build-up for a world champs so I feel like I'm in my element," he said.
"I've always loved being home in New Zealand, it's a great place to train, and there are actually fewer distractions for me ... you get pretty into your own bubble."
Lopas was disappointed friends and family wouldn't be able to join him in Tokyo due to restrictions, and jumping in the boat for the first race in Tokyo, he said his mum would be watching nervously from home.
He said gold would be at the forefront of his mind and the thought of standing on top of the podium would be the ultimate motivation.
"It's an indescribable feeling to think about winning gold," he said.
"For a lot of people, that's what they've been building their whole lives for, so I'm just going to put my best foot forward and see what happens."