Former CEO, 66, drowns during Hong Kong triathlon event on Lantau Island

Recently retired, he was said to have been on long-term medication

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 22 October, 2017, 4:22pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 22 October, 2017, 10:46pm

A 66-year-old former CEO drowned during a Hong Kong triathlon event on Lantau Island on Sunday.

Martin So was unconscious when he was lifted from waters near Sunny Bay MTR station at about 8am. He was taken to North Lantau Hospital, where he was declared dead.

So was taking part in the most advanced category for amateurs in the two-day Hong Kong Life ASTC Sprint Triathlon Asian Cup, which attracted about 1,500 participants.

The men’s open race kicked off at 7.35am and comprised a swim of 750 metres, followed by a 20km cycling segment and a 5km run.

A police source said So, who was on long-term medication, fell ill while in the water. Paramedics performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation at the scene before he was rushed to hospital.

A spokesman for the health and beauty retailer AS Watson Group told the Post that So was the company’s former CEO for Asia and Eastern Europe and had retired earlier this year. The group expressed condolences to his family.

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Ruth Catherine Hunt, president of the Hong Kong Triathlon Association, the event’s organiser, said she had been in touch with So’s family and expressed her deepest condolences. A police investigation was under way.

District councillor Vincent Cheng Wing-shun took part in the race and described the sea as relatively rough and the water temperature cold.

I saw him vomiting and his face had turned white
Vincent Cheng Wing-shun, district councillor and race participant

“The victim was swimming in front of me,” Cheng said. “I saw him vomiting and his face had turned white.”

“The organisers had sufficient lifeguards on site. There were only about 100 people starting the race at the same time. The times were staggered to avoid cramming everybody into one particular slot.”

Lobo Louie Hung-tak, associate professor of physical education at Baptist University, expressed deep sadness about So’s death. He described him as an old friend he saw regularly at sport competitions.

“Martin So was a nice and approachable person,” Louie recalled. “He was very fit and sporty.”

Louie noted a study in the United States that found the sudden death rate for male triathletes aged 60 years or above was 18 deaths in 100,000 people – much higher than the average rate of 1.7 deaths in the general population.

“The health risk of taking part in a triathlon is higher than that of a marathon because it takes much longer to rescue a person from the sea, and any delay in offering timely resuscitation increases the risk of death.”

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But he said making medical clearance compulsory for participants aged 60 or above would be difficult, citing technical difficulties and the possible inaccuracy of reflecting the state of one’s health.

“It’s impossible to ask participants to have a body check one day before the event,” he added.

As a rule, triathletes must sign a wavier form discharging the organiser from responsibility in the event of death or injury.

Regardless of age, participants must declare they are “physically fit and capable of participating”. They are not asked to furnish medical proof.