2014 SOTY Sportsperson winner Siobhan Haughey is a fountain of inspiration

2014 SOTY Sportsperson winner Siobhan Haughey is a fountain of inspiration

World-class swimmer Siobhan Haughey tells us how she manages to balance her sport with study


Swimmer Siobhan Haughey is used to handling stress.
Photo: May Tse/SCMP

It takes both courage and dedication to become an Olympic athlete. Against the best in the world, you have to believe you can win. And sometimes, you just need to take a deep breath and dive right in.

That’s just what 17-year-old swimmer Siobhan Haughey did this week at the Fina World Championships in Kazan, Russia. In the women’s 200 metres individual medley, she set a Hong Kong record of 2 minutes, 13.07 seconds, which saw her qualify for the semi-finals. Her time beat the Olympic qualifying standard of 2:14.26, which means she will be competing in the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Young Post will be reporting live Siobhan's results at the Fina World Championships, so make sure you keep an eye out for updates!

Rio on the horizon

We at Young Post have had our eye on Siobhan even before she was named SCMP Student of the Year Sportsperson for 2013, following her gold-medal win at the Fina World Junior Swimming Championships in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, where she also won silver in the 50m freestyle. We managed to catch up with her between her training and races in Kazan.

“Making the qualifying time for the Olympics has always been my goal,” Siobhan says. “I’m looking forward to going to Rio.”

More than just going to Rio, Siobhan’s time allowed her to enter in the A cut for the Olympics. “There are two types of entry times for swimmers for individual events,” she explains. “The Olympic qualifying time – the A cut – and Olympic selection time – B cut. Swimmers who achieve the A cut automatically qualify, while those with a B cut have a chance – but not a guarantee – of being selected.”

Making the cut

And while Hong Kong has had swimmers in every Olympics since 1952, they all qualified for the B cut. Siobhan is the first Hong Kong swimmer to make the A cut standard.

Less than a year ago, Siobhan had done Hong Kong proud at the Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea and the Nanjing Youth Olympic Games

After setting a Hong Kong record at the Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea, last year with a time of 2:13.21, Siobhan was confident that she would qualify for Rio. Beating that time means a new record for her, but she says she hasn’t let the pressure get to her. 

Siobhan competes in the heats of the women's 200m freestyle swimming event at the 17th Asian Games at Incheon, Korea in 2014.
Photo: AFP

“I’m excited rather than stressed since this is the first time I’m competing at the world championships,” she says.

A balancing act

Siobhan is used to handling stress. She only recently graduated from St Paul’s Secondary School after completing her DSE examinations in seven subjects.

“Balancing both school and training can be hard,” she admits. “There were countless days when I had to wake up at three in the morning to study.”

Sacrifices to be made

Student life is already filled with pressure, and it took a lot of work for Siobhan to become a top athlete. “I had to give up sleep and time spent with friends. It can be quite tough sometimes,” she says. “It’s all about having good time management, being disciplined and knowing how to prioritise.”

In the end, her efforts paid off. “Once I qualified for the Olympics in 200 metres, I knew all my sacrifices were worth it!” she says. Her Olympic qualifying time also got her into the semi-finals in Kazan, where she came seventh with a time of 2:13.26.

"I was without my glasses. I couldn't see the screen clearly and it took me a while to find that my little HK red flag ranked second," said Siobhan

Soaking up success

There are 2,400 swimmers competing in the 2015 World Championships, which will end on Sunday. A total of 900 swimmers will compete at the Rio Olympics next summer.

“I was really excited that I got to see some of the top swimmers from other countries,” says Siobhan.

While she says she still has a long way to go before breaking any world records, she has learned from watching the top swimmers in action. “I’ve witnessed a few world records being broken, but I never think about breaking records before I race,” she says.

“I just hope to swim my best and hopefully get a personal best.”

‘The atmosphere is amazing’

The venue at Kazan is unusual as well. “The swimming pool in Kazan is a temporary pool set up in a football stadium,” Siobhan says.

But the location hasn’t dampened the crowd’s spirit or enthusiasm.

“Everyone is cheering and clapping their hands. There’s also loud music. The whole experience is very different to Hong Kong where competitions are much quieter,” she says. “The atmosphere is amazing.”

Siobhan will compete in the 100m freestyle as well as a relay event today, with her final event – the 50m – on Saturday. 


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