Impressive Hong Kong swimmer Kenneth To earns slot in relay team with Olympic ace Sun Yang at China National Games
The 25-year-old former world championships silver medallist adds gloss to city’s swimming future after ditching Australia and becoming eligible to represent the city of his birth
Kenneth To King-him’s potential as a future swimming star for Hong Kong has been further underlined after the former world championship silver medallist impressed China coaches enough to earn a place in a combined relay team alongside Olympic champion and world record holder Sun Yang at this month’s National Games.
Hong Kong-born To has been eligible to represent the city since June having waited the required one year cooling-off period following his decision last year to walk away from the national swimming programme in Australia, where he grew up.
The 25-year-old clocked 49.12 seconds in the 100 metres freestyle final at Australia’s 2016 Olympic Games trials, which is half a second faster than the Hong Kong record of 49.69 seconds held by Geoffrey Cheah.
To, who is in action at this week’s World University Games in Taiwan, also claimed one silver and two bronze medals for Hong Kong at the short-course World Cup in the Netherlands early this month.
“China had some swimming delegates in Hong Kong before the world championships when Sun was training here and they watched To before making the decision to recruit him for the relay,” said Hong Kong Amateur Swimming Association president Ronnie Wong Man-chiu, who represented Hong Kong at the 1968 and 1972 Olympics.
“This is a good opportunity for To as their standard is very high and we can also have the opportunity of winning a medal.”
Swimming in Hong Kong is riding a wave of success at the moment following Siobhan Haughey’s historic women’s 200m freestyle final appearance at the world championships last month.
And now To has been handed the rare opportunity to train and compete with Sun, who won 200m and 400m freestyle gold at the world championships in Budapest, under new rules which allow relay teams to be made up of swimmers from different provinces at the National Games.
Sun, who is again training at the Hong Kong Sports Institute ahead of the National Games, and fellow Zhejiang province swimmer Wang Shun - himself a world and Olympic medallist - will join To on the combined 4x100 metre freestyle relay team in Tianjin between August 27 to September 9.
A post shared by Kenneth To - 杜敬謙 (@kennethkhto) on Aug 11, 2017 at 12:28pm PDT
“I had never met him before even though Sun came to Australia quite often for training. He trained in the Gold Coast while I was based in Sydney, but I am really looking forward to the race as we all know he is a great swimmer,” said To, who won a silver medal as part of Australia’s 4x100m medley relay team at the 2013 world championships.
“I feel very excited, and in fact we have trained together for awhile as Sun is in Hong Kong in preparation for the Games.
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“We have worked on the exchange as Sun may be swimming in the third leg of the relay and I will be following him at the helm.
“He is a champion and a very experienced swimmer, and it’s very motivating when you see his training times.”
To is part of a 111-strong Hong Kong team for the World University Games, who are seeking their best-ever return from the event.
Hannah Wilson’s two gold medals at the 2009 edition in Belgrade represent Hong Kong’s showing to date, but with To joining Haughey at the National Taiwan Sport University Arena in Taoyuan City, hopes are high that mark will be beaten this year.
Haughey leads the women’s 4x100m freestyle relay team which begin their campaign on Sunday, with the University of Michigan student also in action in the 100m and 200m freestyle.
Long jumper Chan Ming-tai and high jumper Cecilia Yeung Man-wai, who are also considered medal contenders on Taiwan, leave next week.
Watch: Kenneth To claim silver in the 100m individual medley at the World Cup in the Netherlands