Olympic fever grips HK as Haughey swims to silver

0 Comment(s)Print E-mail China Daily, July 30, 2021
Adjust font size:

Siobhan Haughey on Wednesday won Hong Kong's first-ever Olympic swimming medal, adding to the celebratory mood in the city sparked by Cheung Ka-long's historic fencing gold.

"The Little Flying Fish" burst into tears of joy after touching in an Asian-record 1 minute 53.92 seconds to claim silver in the women's 200-meter freestyle final in Tokyo, 0.42 sec behind Australian Ariarne Titmus (1:53.50, an Olympic record) and ahead of Canada's Penny Oleksiak (1:54.70).

"I have put in a lot of effort over the last few years and it has paid off, especially on a big stage like the Olympics," Haughey told media.

It was Hong Kong's second medal at Tokyo 2020, marking the city's most successful Olympic year since Hong Kong first competed at the Games in 1952.

Before 2021, the city secured a gold medal in 1996, a silver in 2004, and a bronze in 2012.

On Thursday morning, Haughey broke the 100m freestyle Asian record for the second time in two days, by clocking 52.40 to storm into the final, scheduled for 9:59 am, Friday.

In a congratulatory message, Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said Haughey had "brought glory to the city and has made me and Hong Kong people proud".

Born to an Irish father and a Hong Kong mother, Haughey had declined to represent Ireland in the pool, stressing in previous interviews her continuing pride in representing Hong Kong, where she was born, raised, educated, and trained for most of her life.

"I had missed the podium at the world championships in 2017 and 2019-always close to it but no medals. In the end, I proved myself,"Haughey said after Wednesday's medal ceremony.

Haughey also noted that Cheung's historic fencing medal-in the men's individual foil on Monday-had inspired her, and hoped that it would also prove inspirational for her Hong Kong teammates in Tokyo, as well as the next generation of young athletes from the Chinese territory.

Sherry Tsai Hiu-wai, a Hong Kong swimmer who competed at the 2000, 2004 and 2008 Olympics before retiring, on Wednesday told local media that she screamed support for Haughey while watching the final.

Tsai said the excellent performances of Cheung and Haughey and their Olympic spirit could uplift younger generations.

Kelvin Ng, a 17-year-old high school student and basketball player, was among the young athletes in awe of the pair's achievements. Ng said on Thursday that he drew inspiration and found strength from the Olympic medalists.

Noting that Haughey has prepared meticulously for the Olympics, Legislative Council president Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen on Wednesday said: "Her spirit of striving for continued improvement is admirable and worthy of emulation."

Preparations for the Olympics in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic have been a challenge for swimmers, including Haughey. She decided to return to Hong Kong from the United States at the end of May 2020, when she was training at the University of Michigan after graduation. Pools and gyms across the US shut down in light of the first wave of the outbreak.

With no access to a pool or gym for over two and a half months, she maintained her aerobic fitness by doing dry-land exercises and routine workouts, according to an interview with Deloitte in late 2020.

"It's very important for us to keep training because once we are out of the pool for more than three days, we lose what we call the 'water feel'," she said in the interview.

Haughey maintains a good "student-athlete" balance, telling media she would always prioritize her studies and fit in swimming training around her classes.

In 2016, she scored 35 for seven subjects in the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education Examination, allowing her to enrol as a psychology major at the University of Michigan, an institution whose alumni include pool legend Michael Phelps, a 23-time Olympic gold medalist, and Margaret MacNeil, the current Olympic and world champion in the women's 100m butterfly.

The 1.78m-tall star, who started swimming at the age of 4, told media that she did not have an innate passion for sports, and often found training boring, because "all I see is the black line at the bottom of the pool, and I want to quit very early on".

But Haughey gradually found pleasure in swimming. At the 2016 Rio Games, she made history by becoming the first Hong Kong swimmer to qualify for an Olympic swimming semifinal, but later failed to advance to the 200m freestyle final.

After this week's silver-medal heroics, now the whole of Hong Kong is hoping that there is more Olympic glory to come for Haughey.

Follow China.org.cn on Twitter and Facebook to join the conversation.
ChinaNews App Download
Print E-mail Bookmark and Share

Go to Forum >>0 Comment(s)

No comments.

Add your comments...

  • User Name Required
  • Your Comment
  • Enter the words you see:   
    Racist, abusive and off-topic comments may be removed by the moderator.
Send your storiesGet more from China.org.cnMobileRSSNewsletter