A new star was born for our city at this year’s Asian Games in Jakarta, Indonesia, as Cheuk Ming-ho made it clear that he plans to be Hong Kong’s top swim star for years to come.
The 16-year-old Ming-ho set new Hong Kong records across all age groups in the 400m, 800m, and 1500m freestyle events with times of 3:55.13, 8:07.76 and 15:38.76, respectively. This makes him one of Hong Kong’s youngest current swimming record holders; the second youngest is 20-year-old swim star Siobhan Haughey, who broke two records two months before her 16th birthday.
“My experience at the Asian Games was so good,” Ming-ho told Young Post at the Sports for Hope Outstanding Junior Athlete Awards Ceremony on Monday. “Hopefully this is just the start, and I will continue to ... set more records for Hong Kong.”
Ming-ho, who was awarded the Certificate of Merit from the Hong Kong Sports Institute for his efforts, said another highlight of the Games was the opportunity to learn from the very best swimmers in Asia – including Chinese Olympic and world-record-holding swimmer Sun Yang.
“It was great to learn more about how they warm up and prepare for competitions; there is so much I can learn from them,” Ming-ho said.
Ming-ho considers Sun one of his idols, and sees similarities between himself and the older athlete. He said: “He is so good at all of the races I am best at; his 400m and 1,500m is amazing. He’s 26 now; hopefully he will keep swimming in more major competitions and I will get to meet him properly – and beat him.”
To prepare for Indonesia, Ming-ho made it a priority to get sufficient down time. He said too often, swimmers focus too much on training and not enough on resting.
“When you train hard, you need to rest more to get stronger,” he said. “You need to make sure you get enough sleep and eat enough.”
Ming-ho transferred to Diocesan Boys’ School (DBS) from La Salle College last year so that he could focus more on his swimming. DBS has a longstanding reputation for supporting its athletes, which Ming-ho said helped take his game to new heights.
However, like many other elite student-athletes in Hong Kong, he struggles to balance training with high academic expectations. His advice to other young athletes in his shoes is to simply focus on one thing at a time.
“If you’re studying, make sure you’re working hard,” Ming-ho said. “If you’re swimming, just swim and don’t think about anything else. And when you’re resting, make sure you’re really resting and are fully relaxed.”
It’s because of this mindset that Ming-ho believes he will have a long, illustrious sporting career and become the best swimmer Hong Kong has ever had.
“I plan to continue working hard and improving,” he said. “I plan to swim for a long time. Hopefully I can swim in the 2024 Olympic Games.”
When asked about possibly participating in the 2020 games, he said he might not be ready yet because he would only be 18 then.
To be a national record-holder at his age is impressive – and he is still young for a swimmer. That presumably puts a lot of pressure on any young athlete, but Ming-ho says he isn’t too worried about the expectations that other people put on
“I just try to have fun, do my best, train hard, rest more, and focus on getting stronger,” he said.
If you could describe yourself as an animal what would it be?
A fish, or maybe a shark.
What helps motivate you before a competition?
I really like watching the video of Michael Phelps racing against a great white shark.
What kind of foods do you eat before a race?
Usually just something simple like vegetables and chicken. And rice. Lots and lots of rice.
What kind of music do you listen to before a race?
I love listening to upbeat songs. A lot of the time, listening to those songs pumps me up and help me set new personal bests.