Hong Kong’s Yvette Kong in Rio health scare: star forced to withdraw from swimming heat

Swimmer receives treatment at Athletes’ Village after suffering breathing difficulties ahead of 200m breaststroke heat

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 11 August, 2016, 7:45am
UPDATED : Thursday, 11 August, 2016, 11:06pm

Hong Kong swimmer Yvette Kong Man-yi was rushed to the Athletes’ Village for treatment after suffering breathing difficulties just moments before she was due to compete in the 200m breaststroke heats in Rio.

But she later eased fears and declared she would be fighting fit to play her part in HK’s historic relay team.

Hong Kong’s team of Kong, opening ceremony flag-bearer Stephanie Au Hoi-shun, Camille Cheng Lily-mei and Sze Hang-yu take part in the 4x100 medley relay on Friday, the first time Hong Kong managed to qualify for a relay – the top 16 times this year – since governing body Fina introduced the qualifying process.

WATCH: relive the action involving Hong Kong athletes on Day 4 and Day 5 at the Rio Olympics

But their hopes of making history – and their goal of breaking the Hong Kong record – appeared over when Kong scratched for the 200.

“She appeared in the warm-up to be having breathing difficulties,” said coach Chen Jianhong. “The situation was serious … [and we decided] to return to the Athletes’ Village to see a doctor.”

But Kong said the problem had disappeared and she would be ready for action.

“I’m all right,” she insisted. “This morning I felt a little physically unwell.

Can China’s adorably awkward Olympic darling turn fame into fortune?

“We decided that it would be beneficial for me to pull out of the 200, which was my bonus event, and focus on the upcoming relay.”

WATCH: golden moments on Day 5 at Rio Olympics 

Coach Michael Fasching, assisting Chen at the Games, said: “Yvette felt a bit lightheaded and breathless during warm-up therefore the coaches, team manager and the athlete agreed not to attend the heat.

“Yvette is in the village and resting. Her situation seems to improve.”

Hong Kong’s swim team have had a great week, highlighted by Siobhan Haughey swimming at night in a historic semi-final.

WATCH: Teenage swimming star Siobhan Haughey gets ready for her debut in the Olympics

And Kong and the rest of the team can’t wait to get involved as they set sights on the local record.

“It seemed to be just a blip as I feel fine now and am looking forward to our historic relay,” Kong added. “I’m feeling pumped for Team HK!”

WATCH: Swimmer Yvette Kong's persistence pays off as she qualifies for her first Olympics

Cheng competed in the 100m freestyle heats, her second event of four at the Games and was just shy of setting a new Hong Kong record. Most of all she’s looking forward to the team event.

‘How old are China’s women gymnasts?!’ – youngsters spark suspicions as Olympics TV viewers can’t believe their eyes

“I’m really excited for the relay, the first time for us to have an Olympic relay – hopefully we can break the Hong Kong record and if not just enjoy racing together,” Cheng said after missing out on a spot in the 100m semi-final by 0.42 seconds with a time of 54.92, just shy of the Hong Kong record.

“Today was basically on my best time but I wanted to be a little faster,” she said. She races in the 50m freestyle heats before Friday’s relay, a considerably greater workload than her teammates. Kong had one other event, while Au and Sze are only in the team race.

“This is my first Olympics, and I’m so excited so I don’t feel so tired – maybe after competition I will be like ‘Aaaa I’m so tired!’”

“Outside the pool, I’ll just keep resting, keep having fun. Watching the finals is great too especially because i have teammates from other countries that are racing, it’s just fun to see them do well and cheer them on.”

WATCH: Camille Cheng evolves from spectator to competitor at the Olympics

Wednesday’s scare aside, Fasching is delighted with the team’s performance in Rio.

“Especially with Claudia Lau’s 100m backstroke, which was half a second faster than her personal best time and ranked among the top 20 here,” he said.

“Camille today was 0.4 seconds off my ex-swimmer Hannah Wilson’s Hong Kong record, while Siobhan’s epic 200m freestyle heat was a 1.3 second improvement on her PB.

“That ranks her fourth fastest in Asia and 17th in the world for 2016, one of the highest rankings of a Hong Kong swimmer ever.”