Swimmer's different stroke

Kevin Kung

Asian Games medallist Claudia Lau's love of rap music has helped her become a winner

Kevin Kung |

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Claudia Lau is taking a break from rap competitions, but hopes to return to the stage some day.
Hong Kong swimmer Claudia Lau Yin-yan developed a passion for rap music when she wanted to listen to something upbeat that would get her adrenaline pumping before a competition.

Claudia broke both the Hong Kong women's 100 metres and 200 metres backstroke records and won a bronze medal in the 4 x 100 metres medley relay at last month's Asian Games in Guangzhou.

She fell in love with rap about four years ago. The music has helped the 18-year-old sixth former at Diocesan Girls' School succeed in the pool. It has also inspired her to rap - not only in front of teammates in Hong Kong Team talent shows or at the Hong Kong Sports Institute's Christmas party, but also on stage in public.

"Usually a swimmer listens to music on an MP3 beside the pool right before racing," Claudia says.

"I didn't want to listen to classical music as I needed to be excited before I jumped into the pool. Rap music was the best choice to get me going - I could feel every part of my body moving."

She doesn't have a favourite song, but her favourite rapper is local star MC Jin. He has inspired her as a swimmer and as a budding rapper. "I like English rap music most. But I admire Jin; he is the first Chinese or even Asian rapper to become successful in the US. African Americans and Caucasians dominate rap music, but Jin is still able to shine, even though he is in the minority. What he has achieved is great," she says.

In May, Claudia took to the stage in a Kwun Tong shopping mall as the only girl in a rap competition. The comeptition was held to promote a Hong Kong feature film about rap music.

"I had just finished my HKCEE and thought it would be fun to take part." She filmed herself rapping and put the video on YouTube.

The judges invited her to perform a rap song in front of them in the second round.

"I've never had such an experience before. I couldn't believe I got to the last eight - and finished third," she says.

Claudia is no stranger to nerves when competing on the world stage - in the swimming pool - but found the rap competition daunting. "Standing alone on stage, I was nervous and worried about the crowd's response. Luckily it got easier and I became totally immersed."

Since then, Claudia has taken a break from competing as a rapper. "I realised I'm not good enough to be able to say I'm a female rapper," she says. She hopes to improve and get back on stage one day.

She has yet to convert her mother to rap music. "My mum says she can't understand what rap singers say without seeing the lyrics. Sometimes when I rap at home, she says she can't hear a single word. I had the same problem at the beginning, but once you listen to different rappers, it becomes easier."

"The nature of rapping and swimming is different, but I think the most important criterion to being successful in both activities is to enjoy what you are doing," Claudia says.

This passion for what she is doing is all the motivation she needs to get up for swimming practice at 5am every day before school - and keep on rapping happily after a busy day.