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Asian Games 2018

I’ll be ready for the Asian Games, says Kenneth To after clocking 49.63 seconds in the 100m freestyle at Hong Kong Open

Two years ago, the 26-year-old made the decision to switch allegiances after earning high praise in Australia, but he’s glad he will represent Hong Kong in Jakarta

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 11 August, 2018, 8:53pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 11 August, 2018, 11:06pm

For Hong Kong’s Kenneth To King-him, the Asian Games will have added significance as he makes his debut at the multi-sport competition – and he can’t wait.

Without doubt, it’s the biggest event the 26-year-old To will be competing in after returning to the land of his birth two years ago having spent most of his career making a name for himself in Australia.

Before he decided to switch allegiances, he earned high praise Down Under for winning a World Championship silver medal in Barcelona in 2013 and a gold medal at the 2012 Youth Olympics.

Now, he will be flying the Hong Kong flag – and on the biggest stage in Asia this year – and he wants to do well, maybe win a medal, too.

He first represented Hong Kong at last year’s World University Games. That was followed by the China National Games. But Jakarta is the one he’s looking forward to most as he aims to break a 20-year individual medal drought at the Games.

Home sweet home – record-breaking Hong Kong swimmer Kenneth To has no regrets leaving Australia

“This is my biggest target after returning to Hong Kong,” said To at Saturday’s Hong Kong Open Swimming Championships at Victoria Park where he comfortably won the men’s 100 metre freestyle in 49.63 seconds.

“I had two intensive training camps in China this year, which were part of my build up for the Asian Games and I’m ready for the challenge.”

To will enter three individual events in Jakarta – the 50-metre freestyle, 100m freestyle and the 200m individual medley. He will also compete in the breaststroke relays but is unsure which leg he will swim.

Hong Kong last won an individual Asian Games swimming medal in 1998 when Mark Kwok Kin-ming came third in the men’s 400 metre freestyle in Bangkok. To has set his sights firmly on breaking the drought.

Impressive Hong Kong swimmer Kenneth To earns slot in relay team with Olympic ace Sun Yang at China National Games

“My biggest medal hope will be in the 100 metres [freestyle] but in order to have a chance of winning a medal, I would need to swim close to my personal best of 48.58 [recorded in 2013],” he said. “I have prepared the best I could prepare for Jakarta. I have completed tough training. I am ready and I’m just look forward to the competition.”

To said he had been inspired by China super star Sun Yang whom he swam together in the relay at the 2017 National Games where the pair won a silver medal together. “I met him a couple of times, including at training camp in Kunming earlier this year. We did not train together but whenever I went through some tough training sessions, I would think of Sun and think of how he would cope with the demands of training. I would get extra motivation and get through my sessions easier,” he said.

Kenneth To through to 50m freestyle final in Taiwan as he eyes World University Games podium

With star swimmer Siobhan Haughey unable to compete in Jakarta due to injury, To is under the spotlight to produce the goods as Hong Kong’s best individual medal hope.

He is under no illusion to the task at hand, but he said he will shrug off the pressure.

“I will go all out to achieve my personal best and hopefully return with a medal. I would be very happy if I won a medal, but it doesn’t happen, so be it.”

Hong Kong will send its largest ever 32-member swimming squad to Jakarta. The squad features a mixture of youth and experience with seasoned campaigners such as Sze Hang-yu, Yvette Kong Man-yi and Stephanie Au Hoi-shun putting strength and depth in the squad.

Kong, who first represented Hong Kong at the Guangzhou Games in 2010, will only focus on one individual event – the women’s 50-metre breaststrokes.

“I’ve spent a lot of effort training for the shorter distance, both in terms of skill and physical build-up,” said the 25-year-old, the Rio Olympian in the 100 and 200 metre breaststroke. “Sometimes you need a fresh approach to something, especially for someone who has had a long swimming career like me.”