Jacqueline Chong has been swimming competitively since she was four years old. That experience has given the 12-year-old South Island School student a very mature outlook.
She tells Young Post: “My greatest achievement is understanding that sport is about more than winning, but about trying my best and testing my body’s limits each race.”
Jacqueline was just three when her parents started taking her to the pool every week, and this gave her a confidence in the water that many of her peers lack. In fact, she feels so at home in the water that it’s the first place she goes if she doesn’t feel well. “If I’m mad or have a tummy ache I find swimming is the cure for it,” she explains. “I simply swim it off!”
She now swims for the Multi-Sport programme at the Hong Kong Cricket Club (HKCC), which keeps her busy. In the weeks leading up to the HKCC gala in September, as well as being back at school, Jacqueline made an extra effort with her training, turning up to lessons, and race practice.
To ensure she was an all-round threat to opponents, her coach insisted Jacqueline hone her backstroke technique, even though she wasn’t competing in that event.
Going into the gala, Jacqueline had two aims: first, to have a day of personal bests; and second, simply to not come last.
She surpassed these modest goals, winning gold in three races, and setting a new club record in the 11-to 12-year-old girls’ 25-metre butterfly record. Her time of 16.04 seconds smashed the club’s previous record of 20.06 seconds.
“I was really surprised I broke the club’s record ... [and] I was really happy I managed not to come last, and that all my hard work wasn’t for nothing,” she says.
Reflecting on the competition a couple of months later, Jacqueline pinpoints her mum’s words as some of the most memorable she heard during her races: “Just pretend that you’re trying to swim for a present instead of swimming for a medal.”
Her mum is a constant source of support and motivation, and is an important role model for her, says Jacqueline, adding: “She’s always there for me.”
An avid reader, Jacqueline can often be found buried in a book or hanging out with friends – when she’s not in the pool.
Jacqueline could have national, or even international, medals to look forward to, but she says huge titles aren’t on her mind at the moment. For now, she’s happy if she beats her own personal best times. Luckily, this is enough motivation for her: Jacqueline’s times are getting so fast that soon she’ll only have herself to compete against.
What song/movie title best describes you when you’re swimming?
Jumpshot by Dawin, as I’m always really happy and energetic as soon as I enter the water and start swimming.
You can take the abilities of any animal during one competition. Which do you choose and why?
I’d choose to have the abilities of a dolphin, as dolphins are really good at dolphin kicks and I swim butterfly.
What’s your favourite thing to eat before a big event?
I really like eating a Kinder Bueno if I’m allowed. If not, a nutella bread slice will do.
Which fictional character would you choose as your teammate?
I’d probably choose Summer from Wonder by RJ Palacio as she seems really nice, talented, understanding and a great listener.
10 years in the future, you are a famous athlete. What company are you a spokesperson for, and what product do you promote?
I’d sign up for Speedo, and promote their swimsuits as I often use their swimsuits and they’re really easy to put on and swim in.