Jonathan Liao Xian-hao isn’t threatened by the competition. In fact, he welcomes the challenge.
“I don’t necessarily view other swimmers as threats,” says the 16-year-old swimming sensation from German Swiss International School (GSIS). “With strong swimmers pushing me, I try to do better. My results may not have been as good without strong competition.”
Jonathan has been swimming for almost 10 years, and has broken just as many records in the past three years. Last month, Jonathan broke the Hong Kong record for the 800m freestyle at the Division 1 Age Group Long Course Swimming Competition, with a time of 8 minutes, 24.57 seconds. “Apparently this record stood since 1995,” says Jonathan. “I was also lucky enough to have managed to break the Hong Kong junior record for the same event this time last year.”
But luck has nothing to do with it. Jonathan trains hard with the Hong Kong national squad. “You put in a lot of hard work and effort, but things don’t always work out well,” he says. “There are a lot of ups and downs in sports.”
Also, swimming competitions can take their toll. “After being abroad for three consecutive races at the end of last year, I had to catch up with a lot of school work,” says Jonathan. “My physical recovery was not that good, and training and rest was not sufficient. Fortunately, GSIS and my swim coaches were very supportive. All things are now good, and back on track.”
As for all his records, Jonathan stays humble. “I think people would generally consider breaking the Hong Kong record or winning the Overall Age Group Championship as some sort of an achievement,” he admits. “But I think I am far from any great achievements.”
For now Jonathan hopes to continue to do the Hong Kong national team proud.
But most of all, he just wants to keep swimming. “I really enjoy the feeling of gliding through the water!” he says. “It is a feeling unlike anything else.”
What song/movie title best describes you when you’re swimming?
I never thought about that. There are many moods, scenes and facets in swimming and I feel it would be difficult to slot in a song or movie that encompass it all. Thanks to [American swimmer] Michael Phelps and his famous earphones, some of us do listen to music to help us focus and give us more energy before a race.
If you could have a superpower for 24 hours, what would you choose and how would you use this power?
Maybe to be able to fly, and join the Avengers for a day of fun action.
If you could have an unlimited supply of anything, what would it be and why?
I think it would be time. Food can be grown, money can be earned, but time once gone is gone – you can never get it back. So an unlimited supply of time would be cool.
Ten years into the future, you are a famous athlete. What company would you sign on as spokesperson for, and what product would you promote?
I am not thinking about promoting any product or company, but I would like to promote basic swimming skills, which can help save lives. According to the WHO [World Health Organisation], an estimated 372,000 people died from drowning in 2012, making drowning a major public health problem worldwide. Swimming is the only sport that can help prevent such deaths.