Despite having only seriously trained for a couple of years, Oriane Guillot is arguably one of Hong Kong’s best young swimmers. How? Through a combination of relentless dedication and an incredible love of the sport.
“Swimming has always been my passion; when I’m in the pool it’s like all of my problems just disappear,” said the 16-year-old. “I have a really great team, and I know [swimming] is what I want to do. I just love it.”
Oriane is coming off an impressive performance at the Fina World Cup in September, where she reached the 400m freestyle final – despite dealing with a severe cough, cold and fever during the contest.
“Yeah, [swimming while sick] wasn’t great,” she said. “I know I could have done a lot better if I had ben healthy.”
Still, to even make the finals of such a prestigious contest is a tremendous accomplishment. Oriane is now focused on even greater things, like competing in the youth Olympics next year – and possibly even the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games.
“Those are my goals, but I know how hard I am going to have to work to achieve them. I understand how difficult it’s going to be.”
Oriane was born and raised in Hong Kong, and has Canadian and British passports. She is considering giving up her British citizenship so that she can represent her home city.
“If I had a Hong Kong passport, I think I would already be swimming for the Hong Kong team,” said Oriane. “It’s definitely something I will consider doing.”
Oriane used to run as well as swim but, when she was nearly 14, she chose to dedicate herself to swimming full-time. The West Island School swim team captain said she has to balance her intensive sports training with her IB diploma, but said that she thinks swimming has actually improved her studies.
“Swimming has taught me how to manage my time better, and has helped me to get mentally stronger,” said Oriane, who added she looks up to US swimmer Katie Ledecky for her mental toughness. “There have been a lot of times during training when I [have felt like I] just wanted to quit, but I kept going. That mental toughness has carried over into other parts of my life.”
Oriane said she is hoping to get a swimming scholarship to a university in Canada – like the University of Toronto, or the University of British Columbia.
“I train twice a day – once in the morning and once in the evening,” said the long-distance freestyle and butterfly specialist. “I had to work really hard to get to the level I am now. There was a period where I wanted to quit – I had exams at the time, and I was stressed out about a lot of things. I wasn’t swimming well, which would put me in an even worse mood. It was like a vicious cycle.
“Then one day, I just woke up and felt really good while training. I used that one good session as motivation for the rest of the week, and I used that week as motivation for the next week, and so on. Soon, I remembered why I love the sport. I love it because swimming gives me a sense of achievement, and it makes me happy.”
Oriane said she thinks that all young aspiring swimmers will go through a similar rough patch during their lives, but she said her advice is to keep fighting through it, even when there seem to be many obstacles. It’s when it gets tough, that you feel like you’re making a difference. Her final piece of advice? Make what you do in the water count for you, and not anyone else.
“Don’t swim for anyone but yourself.”