As Frank Ho Siu-lun launched himself into the pool, the crowd rose to their feet, cheering fervently. Chants of “Siu-lun! Siu-lun! Siu-lun!” grew louder as the swimmer sped closer to the finish line.
When Frank took his last stroke and placed his hands on the touch pad, shouts filled Kowloon Park Swimming Pool. The 15-year-old had set a new record in the Boys’ Grade B 50 metre Butterfly event at the annual Interschool Swimming Competition on October 18, pushing it from 25.85 seconds to 25.45 seconds.
It was a jaw-dropping performance, made more incredible by the fact that Frank isn’t even usually a butterfly swimmer. No one was expecting a backstroke swimmer to perform so well in another style.
Even then, Frank, who has previously won two Interschool backstroke events, had a few more tricks up his sleeve; he went on to smash the 100 metre Freestyle record twice – first during the heats, and then again in the October 25 finals.
Speaking to Young Post at the competition, the Ying Wa College student said that skipping the backstroke events in favour of other races was an attempt to step out of his comfort zone, as well as a strategic move to boost his school’s ranking.
“I entered the butterfly and freestyle events this year because I wanted to try something new,” said Frank. “It was also a tactic to help my school, because we don’t have enough swimmers to win medals in those events.”
Ying Wa College eventually came in fourth place in the Boys’ Overall category, a result Frank was happy with. He admitted it was “quite impossible” for his school to push the indomitable Diocesan Boys’ School from the top spot.
But in the eyes of Ying Wa’s student body, Frank, who has been dubbed the new “king of backstroke” by local media, is the star they’ve been waiting for to lead the school to success. It isn’t a role he is entirely comfortable with.
“Honestly, I don’t think people should call me that,” he said, referring to the media’s nickname. “It puts me under a lot of pressure, because I’m worried I won’t live up to people’s high expectations.”
Before racing, Frank does his best to push these worries out of his mind. He has a specific pre-race ritual, which involves patting his chest (hence the patches of red on his skin), splashing water on his face, letting out a good shout, and giving himself a pep talk.
“I tell myself that I can do it. And if I don’t perform well, I just tell myself to come back stronger next time.”
Frank’s remarkable performance this month is in part thanks to the professional training he has been receiving at the Hong Kong Sports Institute.
The teen officially joined the Hong Kong team this June, and now trains for at least 20 hours a week. It’s an exhausting regimen, but more than 10 years of swimming experience has taught Frank that diligence and persistence are key to finding success in the sport.
“Swimming is all about perseverance. If you can’t push through the tough times, you’re not suitable for the sport,” he said.
Frank is set to compete to in another local competition this weekend, performing his trifecta – backstroke, freestyle and butterfly – at the Hong Kong Age Group Long Course Swimming Championships. His goal is to achieve a new personal best time in all three events, which will help him secure a spot on the representative team for Asian and international tournaments next year.
The rising star’s advice to others in his sport is heart-warming: just keep swimming.
“You may think you’ll never swim well – I have been there, too,” he said. “But if you’re willing to persist, nothing is impossible. So don’t give up.”