Swimming is often thought of as the most physically punishing of sports, as it requires every muscle in your body to stay afloat and an enormous amount of physical strength to move through the water at speed. Unlike running, where you can stop and sit down if you get tired, swimmers need to be strong enough to make it back to dry land.
But Chloe Wong Po-yin doesn’t just use her swimming ability to stop herself drowning at the beach – she uses it to smash competitions and wants to be a professional athlete someday. The 11-year-old Sacred Heart Canossian School student has been on the Winner Athletic Association team for four years now, and trains every single day to maintain her fitness and confidence in the pool.
She already has her sights set on representing Hong Kong all over the world, and making it to the Olympics one day.
As every elite athlete will tell you, the road to the top is long, but Chloe has got off to a flying start. She claimed a gold medal at the Hong Kong Amateur Swimming Association’s Long Course Swimming Competition in February.
As any sportsperson knows, dealing with fatigue leading up to a big event can be an issue, and it’s one of Chloe’s bugbears.
“Tiredness is the thing I struggle with most,” she says. “When I’m sleepy, I’m powerless and can’t finish the training my coach sets me.”
The competition took place during the school holidays so Chloe was well-rested, though this also meant that her practice times were a little longer than usual.
She worked with her coach to set targets for herself for the event, so she could jump into the water with a strategy in mind. A fan of mantras, Chloe stuck to her coach’s phrase: “Believe in yourself, you can do it, never give up” when the tournament at Kowloon Park Swimming Pool came round.
Competing in the 200-metre freestyle event, Chloe finished just more than a tenth of a second faster than her opponent, Summer Lam Hoi-ching, and also smashed her personal best.
Although she and Summer are technically rivals, Chloe has a sincere respect for her.
“My opponent is a great swimmer, who is particularly strong when it comes to freestyle,” she says.
“But my greatest threat is myself as I have to do my best under pressure in every competition and show everyone the progress I’ve made.”
Chloe describes the win as “unbelievable” and “amazing”, and says she was “excited and surprised”.
However, she emphasises the value of staying humble when competing, adding “There is no arrogance in victory, no despair in defeat.”
You can take the abilities of any animal during one competition. Which do you choose and why?
I would choose the abilities of a frog, so I could swim faster in my breaststroke.
What’s your favourite thing to eat before a big event?
Steak is my favourite food because it gives me more energy.
Who would you name as your role model, within or outside sport?
Stephanie Au Hoi Shun, my alumna, is my role model. She is nice, friendly and hard-working.
What else do you like doing apart from sport?
I like reading books, playing violin and sleeping.