Kenneth To King-him may have spent 12 years representing Australia, but he’s determined to become Hong Kong’s next big swimming star.
“I’ve lived in Australia for the past 20 years, so [moving to Hong Kong has] been a big living adjustment,” To told Young Post. “But now, I see myself staying in Hong Kong for the rest of my life with my girlfriend.”
The Hong Kong-born To moved to Australia when he was two. Growing up, he went on to become a highly accomplished swimmer for the national team. Among his impressive accolades are the six medals he won at the 2010 Summer Youth Olympics, and winning the 2012 FINA World Cup.
Last year, he made the decision to return to his home city and, after waiting out the required one year “cooling off” period, has since been able to represent Hong Kong internationally.
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“The training hasn’t been too different, I’m still just swimming up and down a pool,” said the 25-year-old. “But the environment is very different. I really like being here at the Hong Kong Sports Institute, and training with my new squad.”
When asked if he missed Australia, To said not that much. “I do have close friends back in Australia but I still keep in contact with them. I miss my family and my friends but it’s nothing to be sad about because the environment I’m in now is really good.”
To has already proven himself a force to be reckoned with in his first summer with the Hong Kong swimming squad. He impressed his coaches so much in training that he was selected to race alongside Chinese Olympic and world record-holding competitive swimmer Sun Yang at this year’s National Games.
“I was so excited to get to swim alongside such an awesome champion and superstar,” To enthused. “I didn’t really know what to expect going into my first national games, but to be in the relay with Sun Yang – that was something special. I gave it my best, and we came away with the silver for Hong Kong. I’m very proud of what I was able to achieve.”
Although his impressive freestyle ability is what earned him a spot on the relay team, his strongest event is the 200m IM [individual medley], which requires the competitors to swim the four major strokes – freestyle, backstroke, breaststroke and butterfly.
“I love the swimming medley. We have so much training throughout the week, it would be very boring to just do one stroke,” To said. “You have to be really good at all four strokes to be good at the medley.
“Put me in a 400m medley, though, and you’d see that I’m very slow,” he laughed.
Now, To is looking forward to the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta, and likes his chances of coming away with a gold medal.
“I’m going to try and medal in the 50m and 100m freestyle,” he said. “The 200m IM is pretty stacked, with four of the top nine medley swimmers in the world being Asian, but I will train for that as well because it’s my best event.”
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Hong Kong now has a whole host of swimming talent, with Siobhan Haughey heading a historic summer for the city. Her two gold medals at the World University Games earned her a total of HK$1 million in rewards from the Hong Kong Jockey Club.
While To’s silver medal has only netted him HK$30,000, he was gracious and called the reward a “nice bonus” to finish off the swimming season.
When asked what advice he could provide young swimmers, To said they should find the right balance between swimming and everything else.
“There’s a lot of pressure to do well at school,” he said. “But to become a great swimmer you need to put time and effort into training. I trust that more young Hong Kong swimmers will be able to do that – hopefully following in my footsteps.”