Waltham Forest swimmer Reece Nicholls was left smiling from ear to ear after knocking nearly a second off his personal best on the way to silver at the Balfour Beatty London Youth Games.

Nicholls was the borough’s star performer in the pool at Crystal Palace, claiming their only medal in the first event as he won junior boys’ 500m freestyle silver in a time of 26.63 seconds.

It was also the Chingford Foundation School pupil’s first medal at the Games on his fourth appearance and he hopes it is just the start of a successful swimming career.

“It feels amazing to medal at the London Youth Games for the first time,” said Nicholls. “I was really pleased when I looked up at the board and saw I’d got the silver medal – it was a lot better than I expected.

“To knock so much off my personal best is amazing for a 50m race and it makes it feel even better. I felt good warming-up and felt quite confident that I could do well.

“But to be honest I didn’t think I would end up on the podium. I felt a little bit tired coming into the weekend as I’d been training hard and had a few galas recently but clearly my results prove differently.

“Hopefully I can build from this and reach this level on a consistent basis. I’d like to get somewhere high in my swimming career. Hopefully doing well in these Games can act as a bit of a springboard.”

Waltham Forest finished 24th in the overall Jubilee Trophy standings – won by Wandsworth with a record haul of 1193 points – and competed in 41 events across the entire 2014 Games.

They claimed gold in the girls’ football tournament while also giving impressive showings in the diving, tennis and girls volleyball and squash.

And after a long season, Nicholls believed his time was the perfect way to wrap things up.

“I’m on an Essex training camp where the top six swimmers in Essex go to camp once a month on a Sunday to try and progress and work on technique,” the 14-year-old added.

“There’s a lot of hard training but we get to mix with other great swimmers from Essex so it helps to push us all on and improve as swimmers. You need to have that competition if you are to reach your best.

“The season is coming to an end so it’s great to finish with a personal best as it shows the hard work I’ve put in this season has paid off.”

The London boroughs and Balfour Beatty invest in the London Youth Games to build stronger communities through competitive sport.