A record-splashing start to 2012

PUBLISHED : Monday, 02 January, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 02 January, 2012, 12:00am


There are many ways of welcoming in the new year. If staying up late for the midnight countdown was not your style, you could have joined a hardy group of Hongkongers who broke the ice of the new year with a morning swim in the wintry sea.

Despite the balmy weather, around 18 degrees Celsius, the ocean felt frigid. But that did not stop more than 2,500 Hongkongers from jumping into the sea for the new year winter swim at Repulse Bay, the biggest turnout in the event's 36 years.

The pier was crowded by 9am with swimmers, their families and friends. Everyone laughed and chatted as they did warm-up exercises. Mothers heated soup and chicken wings, perfect for children hungry from a long, cold swim.

The competition was divided into three categories each for males and females. There was also a leisure swim category, where local swim teams could test their own mettle, and families and those who enjoy a refreshing dip could sign up and swim for the fun of it.

Others swam for the specially designed souvenir - a gold-coloured token bearing a dragon for the Year of the Dragon.

Swimmers started from Middle Bay Beach and swam 600 metres to the finish line at the Repulse Bay jetty. They dashed into the sea at the sound of a horn, as onlookers cheered and snapped pictures.

Liu Chun-ting, 15, was fastest to the finishing line in the men's open category. Hannah Li Hang-fung, 14, came first in the women's race, on her debut in the competition.

Around 500 children aged 12 or younger took part this year.

Among them was Leung Wing-wai, the youngest participant in the event at not quite four years old. He emerged from the water shivering, with runny eyes and nose, after finishing the whole course. His proud father, Leung Sang-kwai, toted him and his older sister, both covered with towels, and said the youngster had been swimming since he was five months old.

'Swimming is good for [children's] bodies,' Leung said. 'We spent the past two weeks swimming in Deep Water Bay so they can get used to the sea and the cold.'

The oldest participant, Ko Fun, 80, seemed to agree. 'Swimming is so very good for you!' he said. This was Ko's sixth new year swim. He had to skip last year's event because of back surgery and was happy to be back.

Wong Kin-ming, one of two disabled people taking part, said he started training three months ago. It was his 28th year of competing in the swim. 'It's about challenging myself, and challenging time,' said Wong, who walks with crutches.


The gap in years between the oldest competitor in yesterday's swim, Ko Fun, aged 80, and the youngest, Leung Wing-wai, aged three