Geoffrey Cheah is eyeing the swimming pools at the 2016 Rio Olympics

Geoffrey Cheah is eyeing the swimming pools at the 2016 Rio Olympics

Geoffrey Cheah is hoping to become the first Hong Kong swimmer to qualify for an Olympics finals


Hong Kong's Geoffrey Cheah won gold and silver at the Fina Swimming World Cup held in Causeway Bay
Photos: David Wong

Geoffrey Cheah won gold in the 50-metre butterfly and silver in the 50m freestyle during the Hong Kong leg of the Fina World Cup at Victoria Park last month. The holder of 10 Hong Kong records, Cheah has set his sights on the 2016 Rio Olympics.

"It was a good start to the season and those two medals are a big confidence booster in the run-up to the Olympics," says the 24-year-old.

Cheah hopes to become the first local swimmer to qualify for an Olympics final. Now based in Michigan, in the US, he enjoys a competitive but friendly team atmosphere.

In a telephone interview with Young Post, Cheah says the comprehensive training programme in the US can help him reach his peak performance. "The training is much more diversified and specific here, so for example, we have a part of the season when we're doing more aerobic work or when we're doing more power work in the water. That's just like swimming against the waves using fins and paddles, and sprinting."

Cheah trains smart, too, and communicates with his teammates to figure out how he can get better results. "Training is never stagnant. We're always looking to improve," he says.

Adding to Cheah's optimism are his "amazing" team coaches, Mike Bottom, Mark Hill and Sam Wensman, who have given him a lot of support in terms of the psychological aspect of swimming.

"All three coaches are very experienced as to how you get an athlete to mentally cope with the pressure, what is the right perspective to approach a swimming meet, and to approach training," he says. "They're all encouraging me to look on the positive side. [For example,] what are the good things I'm doing? We'll work together to get better from there."

When he's not focusing on his intensive training, Cheah gets excited about racing against top American swimmers.

He swam against Olympic champions Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte at the Bulldog Grand Slam in Georgia last year. It was a wonderful learning experience, he says. He was also inspired by their talent, hard work and attitude.

"Their self-belief is something that really impressed me," he adds. "The duo have an amazing work ethic. They are very talented but are also the hardest workers out there, and that's why they're successful."

Cheah is preparing for the Arena Pro Swim Series in the state of Minnesota next month. It will provide him with another opportunity to compete with the country's best swimmers.

He says Hong Kong needs more international events which would promote the development of the sport.

"Hong Kong needs to improve the standard of local events. So the Fina World Cup last month was great in terms of bringing top swimmers to show local athletes what they need to do to reach those standards," he says.

He hopes that one day Hong Kong can reach the level of the US, providing swimmers with top facilities, trainers and competitions.

Bench notes

Who are your favourite athletes?
Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal. These guys are my idols in terms of how they use their talents on the court, how hard they work, the way they handle pressure, their tenacity on the court and the way they come back from defeat. They're modest, confident and really nice to their fans. And I'm also a tennis fan.

If you are asked to compete with one aquatic animal, what would it be?
A dolphin. They're playful creatures. I actually swam with dolphins before and it was really fun. They can swim so much faster than humans that's not a competition really.

What music do you listen to when you train?
We have an underwater speaker in our pool ... so any song from Swedish House Mafia, Eminem, ACDC, and Guns N' Roses among others.

What are the two foods you'll never give up?
My godfather lives in Thailand. The two foods that I'll never give up are the Thai chicken rice that he gets for me whenever I visit him, and mango sticky rice.

What are your hobbies other than swimming?
Guitar-playing, cooking, tennis, going to the cinema, hanging out with friends, and reading.

This article appeared in the Young Post print edition as
Roaring towards Rio


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