Hong Kong’s Stephanie Au relishing her new role as team mentor as she strikes gold again in Ashgabat
‘Veteran’ Au says the performance of her team is most important as Hong Kong’s swimmers complete another fine day in the pool
Stephanie Au Hoi-shun is shifting her focus towards next year’s Asian Games in Jakarta after her gold medal-winning performance in the short course swimming at the Asian Indoor Games on Sunday evening continued Hong Kong’s successful showing in Turkmenistan.
Au won gold in the 100 metres backstroke in a time of 58.94 seconds to finish 0.22 seconds ahead of Chinese duo Yang Yifan and Jiang Yuru despite misreading her finish at the end of the four length discipline.
It was the third gold medal in three days for Hong Kong’s female swimmers following victory in the 4x50m medley relay on Friday and Chan Kin-lok’s win in the 100m butterfly the following day.
Those results place Hong Kong in third place in the swimming medal table with one day of competition remaining.
“I had a bad finish on the first leg of the relay, too, so there’s room for improvement,” said Au after picking up her fourth medal of the games. “That gives me something I can work on ahead of the Asian Games next year, that will be a big goal for us.”
Au had already won gold in the medley relay and a silver in the 4x100m freestyle relay before being part of the 4x50m freestyle relay that lost out to China on Sunday evening by just 0.10 seconds.
Hesitation in the changeovers cost Hong Kong the gold and Au is determined to not allow those issues to affect the team in the future.
“I want to go for individual and team medals next year,” she said. “What happened in the relay, I definitely don’t want that to happen again.
“This is a good wake-up call because all the technique, the exchanges and the details, you have to work on them together with the team.”
At 25 years of age, Au is one of the oldest members of the 26-strong squad representing Hong Kong in Ashgabat and she is revelling in her role as a mentor to the younger members of the team.
That includes 17-year-old Toto Wong Kwan-to, who finished fifth in the 100m backstroke in a new personal best of 59.51 seconds to earn a huge embrace from Au at the finish.
“I’m really honoured to be on this team right now,” she said. “I think we’re in a phase right now were older swimmers like me are getting to see the other younger swimmers doing well.
“Toto did her best time next to me and that makes me happier than winning the gold medal. That and working with the team is worth more than anything.
“We told each other our expectations before the race and she told me that she really wanted to do her best time and go under a minute, and when I saw that she had I was really happy for her.”
There were additional medals in the pool for Hong Kong with Chan adding a bronze medal in the 50m butterfly to the gold she claimed in the 100m while Ho Nam-wai also collected bronze in the women’s 200m freestyle behind gold medal winner Sun Meichen of China.