Swim star Siobhan Haughey lived up to expectations, making the first 2020 Olympic A qualifying standard for Hong Kong less than 24 hours after returning from the United States where she is now based.
The final-year psychology student at the University of Michigan proved she is in a class of her own in the swimming pool in the Festival of Sport Time Trial at the Sports Institute in Fo Tan.
“I would say it’s the hard work and training over the last 12 months that pays off,” said Haughey, who will be going back to the Unites States on Monday after spending time with her family. “But still, I was a little bit caught by surprise by the results as I just came back to training after a small break following last month’s NCAA championships. I also needed to adjust to long-course swimming as most of the training and competitions in the States are short-course.
“If I couldn’t make it in Hong Kong this time, I would need to take part in some other events according to the plans, but now I can focus on my next major event: the World Championships in Gwangju in July.”
The 21-year-old starlet was untouchable in the 100-metre freestyle as she clocked an amazing 53.59 seconds to win her heat, and smash her own Hong Kong record of 53.83, which she set at the 2017 World University Games in Taiwan. The time also fell well within the Tokyo Games qualifying mark of 54.38.
Veteran Sze Hang-yu came second but was a distance behind clocking 57.86.
In the 400m freestyle heats, which Haughey used to achieve the 200m qualifying mark, the Michigan alumni also clocked 1:57.16, slightly better than the required 1:57.28. She finished the race in 4:37.22, after easing off in the final 200 metres.
Haughey came fifth in the 200-metre freestyle at the last World Championships in 2017, the first swimmer from Hong Kong to reach the final there.
“It’s hard to say the medal chance in Gwangju as other swimmers also make progress,” she said. “There are several months to go and hopefully I can do well in training for a strong build-up.”
But before the Worlds, the star swimmer now looks forward to her graduation in May, which will also be her first ceremony to celebrate her studies.
“My kindergarten graduation was cancelled due to the SARS in 2003, the same as my primary school one because of the outbreak of human swine influenza in Hong Kong,” she said. “Then I left my secondary school in the summer of 2015 to Michigan and missed the graduation later that year. The coming one will be the first of mine for so many years and I’m really looking forward to it.”
Haughey said she would stay in the University of Michigan until the 2020 Olympic Games as she has already found a job in the school which is related to her studies. “I can stay with the school’s swimming programme because of my new job in the school, although I will not be competing for them,” she said.
“The programme in Michigan has made me a better swimmer. In fact, I only found out what professional training looks like after arriving the States. The training intensity is much higher and all the teammates are looking for progress, pushing each other for better performance.”
Haughey said she is still sometimes troubled by her nagging left knee problems, especially when the demanding training schedule reaches a high intensity. “The pain will go from the lateral side of the knee up to my ankle and it really hurts, but fortunately the situation is under control,” she said.
Haughey became the first Hong Kong swimmer to reach an Olympic A qualifying standard when she qualified in the 200m individual medley for the 2016 Rio Games.