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Hong Kong Sports Institute

Tales of torture – but Bill Sweetenham is the father figure who moulded Hong Kong’s Robyn Lamsam as a swimmer and a person

Former Hong Kong swimmer surprised the Australian by turning up at his induction to the International Swimming Hall of Fame in Florida

PUBLISHED : Monday, 21 May, 2018, 6:31pm
UPDATED : Monday, 21 May, 2018, 10:46pm

He was a terrible taskmaster and there are stories aplenty of pure torture – but Robyn Lamsam would not have had it any other way with her former coach and still father figure Bill Sweetenham.

Lamsam made a surprise visit to Fort Lauderdale in the United States to attend former Hong Kong coach Sweetenham’s induction into the International Swimming Hall of Fame.

The 40-year-old Lamsam first came under Sweetenham’s wing as a 12-year-old at the Hong Kong Sports Institute and they have been close ever since. There was no way Lamsam was going to miss his big moment.

Watch Bill Sweetenham tell his amazing story

“Going through my formative years with him over the past 20-odd years, it has moulded me into the person that I am,” said Lamsam from Florida. “I think basically every positive trait that I have now as a grown-up has been in some way, shape or form contributed to by Bill.

“Some of the challenges [in life] I face now, I am able to face them with a lot of strength, determination, positivity and open-mindedness because of the life lessons he taught me when I was a young swimmer and I am forever grateful to him and his family. He’s like my dad, Bill and [his wife] Cheryl are like my surrogate family.”

Sweetenham who also coached in the United Kingdom and Australia and produced multiple Olympic champions, said he never expected to see Lamsam at the ceremony.

“It was a great surprise and a pleasant surprise,” Sweetenham said. “I’ve had a strong relationship, friendship with the Lamsam family for a long time, both [Robyn’s brother] Roy and Robyn.

“She’s a personal friend and I consider Robyn to be my second daughter. Both Robyn and my daughter Karen had children at exactly the same age.

“My days in Hong Kong are remembered with great fondness. I really appreciate Robyn for making the visit. We’ve spent the last 24 hours talking about old times and good times, and the influence Robyn’s swimming career had on me and what I had on hers.”

Under his guidance, Lamsam won a silver and bronze at the 1994 Asian Games in Hiroshima, three gold medals at the 1995 Pacific Ocean Games in Cali, Colombia and a bronze at the 1995 Paris World Cup.

“I would not have reached this international standard if it was not for Bill,” said Lamsam, who is now a much sought-after master of ceremonies in Hong Kong. “He was a really tough trainer, a terrible taskmaster and I have so many stories of torture from when he was my coach but all of that moulded me into who I am today.

“The contribution he made to Hong Kong swimming and Hong Kong sport has also been tremendous. He flipped everything on its lid and I think that made a huge positive impact on Hong Kong swimming.”