HK Olympic swimmer Siobhan Haughey speaks about injury concerns and why she will train at University of Michigan until Tokyo 2020

By Kelly Ho

The young athlete recently qualified for the upcoming summer Olympic Games, and was awarded one of the highest honours in US college sports

By Kelly Ho |

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Haughey has secured qualification for the World Championships in South Korea as well as the 2020 Olympics

Look out, Tokyo – Hong Kong swimmer Siobhan Haughey is coming for you. The 21-year-old has had an eventful week. Last weekend, she made an early qualification for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics on home soil (or home waters!), and then she was awarded one of the highest honours in US college sports on Tuesday. 

Reflecting back at her tremendous week with Young Post, Haughey said she had been surprised to meet two Olympic qualifying marks at the Festival of Sport Time Trial at the Sports Institute. Her 100m freestyle time was 53.59s, marking a new personal best for her, and renewing her own Hong Kong record.

Now, the swim star can concentrate on preparing for the 100m and 200m freestyle events at the World Championships in Gwangju, South Korea in July, as well as her second Olympic Games next year. “I was a bit stressed because I really wanted to swim well in Hong Kong, but I was also delighted to be back and see everyone,” said Haughey, who has not appeared regularly in local competitions in the last two years.

The Olympic qualifications weren’t the only highlight of the week, though. Haughey was presented with the “Big Ten Medal of Honor” presented by her school, the University of Michigan in the US, in light of her sporting and academic achievements.

Siobhan Haughey broke her own national 100m freestyle record in Hong Kong last week, with a freestyle time of 53.59s.
Photo: Jonathan Wong/SCMP

Haughey, who is the third ever Michigan swimmer to be awarded with the accolade, said she struggled with balancing her workload, like choosing between finishing off an assignment or going to bed early for the morning practice the next day. “You have to make sacrifices all the time, but it’s rewarding to know that people recognise your hard work,” she said.

The key to getting the best out of both worlds, according to Haughey, is to maintain a disciplined life. She starts her day as early as 6am for morning training. Then, after hours of classes and an afternoon training session, she goes to sleep at 10pm to be ready for the next day. 

This rigid timetable requires serious self-discipline, and the swimming prodigy admitted it’s a struggle to stick to every single day. Still, she always finds a way to keep that fire burning. “I write my goals on a piece of paper and stick it in my locker, so I can look at it every day and know why I’m doing what I’m doing,” she said.

The star added that having a group of close-knit teammates of a similar age encourages her to strive for the team’s goal of winning the Big Ten Championships (they came second in the event in February). This mentality is in stark contrast to her days in Hong Kong, where she was  always the oldest swimmer in the club. 

“Other swimmers in my [old] club were younger, so we had very different goals. My teammates here are like my sisters. We train hard together on weekdays, then we hang out during the weekend to relax,” she said. 

Haughey will graduate this year, but the psychology major said she will put a pause on her plans to go to graduate school to become a clinical child psychologist. This is because she wants to make swimming her priority.

She has also decided to stay in Michigan rather than return to Hong Kong, so that she can get in the best shape possible for the upcoming Worlds in July and the 2020 Games. “We have underwater and overhead cameras and more than 10 screens at the pool. We can look closely at our strokes, and coaches can point out areas for improvement,” she said. 

One of the things that Haughey will need to be careful about, coming up to the Games, is the foot injury that forced her to withdraw from the Asian Games last August.

Although she has seen more than 10 doctors in the US about a sharp pain in her foot, none of them have any idea what is causing it. Still, Haughey is optimistic about her recovery, and believes the doctors will find a way to keep the injury under control. 

“I wouldn’t say I have fully recovered, but it is definitely better than last year,” she said. “We will find a way [to work around it] so it doesn’t get worse. So far, it’s doing pretty well.”

Edited by Ginny Wong

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