The 2013 SCMP Student of the Year – Sportsperson winner Siobhan Haughey made Olympic history for Hong Kong at Rio’s Aquatics centre on Monday as she became the first local swimmer to take part in a Games semi-final in the modern era.
The 18-year-old swimmer took on some of the best in the world in the women’s 200m freestyle.
She was up against the American phenomenon Katie Ledecky, and Sweden’s Sarah Sjostrom – both of whom set world records the night before – as well as the reigning world record holder in the event, Federica Pellegrini.
Haughey comfortably won her heat in 1:56.91 and qualified for the semis in ninth place. She missed out on a place in the final after finishing sixth in 1:57.56 in the semis, but Haughey can now count herself among the fastest Olympians in the world, and will surely be back for Tokyo 2020.
Sjostrom won the heat in 1:54.65. Ledecky qualified in second, with Pellegrini in third.
Haughey was due to compete in the 200m individual medley less than an hour after her freestyle heat, but withdrew to ensure she was able to focus all her attention on the 200m freestyle semis.
Born and raised in Hong Kong, the former St Paul’s Secondary School student anchored Hong Kong to bronze medals in three relay events at the 2014 Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea: the 4x100 metres and 4x200m freestyle, and the 4x100m medley.
She has just finished her first year at the University of Michigan – where US superstar Michael Phelps trains – and was voted Swimmer of the Championships when she helped her college win the prestigious Big 10 championships for the first time in years.
UMich coach Mike Bottom, the assistant coach to the all-powerful US team in Rio, said before the Games that she could be an outside chance for a medal, and that another three years under his tuition will hopefully have her contending in Tokyo.
Hong Kong’s only other swimmer to have raced among the 16 fastest was Cheung Kin-man, way back in 1952, as part of Hong Kong’s first Olympics team.