Super squirt dives into water sports

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 06 January, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 06 January, 2007, 12:00am

The youngest participant in a winter swimming competition on New Year's Day was learning to swim before he could walk.

Four-year-old Derek Lee Hoi-lap loves the water so much, his parents were determined that he would participate in water sports as soon as possible.

Derek swam the 600 metres from Middle Bay to Repulse Bay in 30 minutes as part of the 31st New Year Winter Swimming Lifesaving Championship organised by the Life Saving Society. 'I felt very happy as many people swam with me,' Derek said yesterday.

His father, Donald Lee Chin-to, 37, said he and his wife both loved water sports. 'We wanted our son to learn swimming as early as possible so we could do water sports with him as a family,' he said.

The family enjoys sports such as canoeing or surfing once - or even twice - a week, no matter how cold the weather becomes.

'From the time he was a baby, we put him in a bath tub to train his breathing skills,' Mr Lee said. 'Little babies pick up the skill quickly. I wanted my wife to give birth to my son in the water, but this kind of service is not available in Hong Kong.'

Born on July 6, 2002, Derek enjoys bath time so much, his parents often have a hard time getting him out of the tub.

'We taught him how to breathe as in swimming when he was as little as two months old,' his mother said. 'By January 2006, he could swim on his own,' his father added.

Derek's parents wanted him to take part in the January 1 swim to get him used to waves. 'I took him to swim in a rough sea two weeks before the race to make sure he could handle it,' Mr Lee said.

'We want to train him not to be afraid of water, waves and cold. I always think that everyone should learn how to swim because it is a survival skill,' he said, adding that he accompanied his son throughout the race.

Mr Lee has already begun teaching breathing skills to his second son, who is just five months old.

If you think Derek was good at swimming, you should see him ski, his father said.

'He only had a few lessons in Hokkaido [Japan] and now he is doing much better than my wife, who started it a decade ago. I hope my son can enjoy playing more sports. It is true that doing sports is good for his health. He seldom gets sick.'