Hong Kong swimming legend Alex Fong to lead St Joseph’s College alumni in group relay swim around Hong Kong Island

South China Morning Post June 5, 2021 21:30:00

Hong Kong Olympian Alex Fong Lik-sun will lead fellow St Joseph’s College alumni in 45-kilometre relay swim around Hong Kong Island in November.

The former national team star-turned-entertainer, who successfully completed and set a record for his charity Island circumnavigation swim in 2019, will be part of the school’s “Green and White Swimathon 2021” slated for November 13, subject to government approval.

“My passion for swimming has been completely refreshed after the round-the-island swim from two years ago”, said Sydney 2000 Olympic Games competitor Fong at the Swimathon’s kick-off ceremony on Sunday, adding that he trains five times a week.

“Speaking truthfully, I didn’t swim in the sea at all before 2019. It’s not really my style. But after [the 2019 swim], I’ve become less afraid.”

Three generations of Hong Kong swimmers – (from left) Anthony Tang Ho-kwong, Alex Fong Lik-sun and Jeremy Wong Chen-ho share their thoughts with St Joseph’s College students ahead of their round-the-Island swim later this year. Photo: St Joseph’s College Green and White Swimathon Organising Committee

“Little Flying Fish” Fong aside, there will be 10 teams of six alumni across several generations, including former Hong Kong swimming team captain and Moscow 1980 Olympian Anthony Tang Ho-kwong, 2013 Asian Games bronze medallist Derick Ng Chun-nam, 2018 Asian Games bronze medallist Jeremy Wong Chen-ho, Sydney 2000 Olympian Harbeth Fu Wing, two-time Asian open water swimming champion John Ling Tin-yu and 1998 Asian Games representative David Sun Fat-yee.

Although the overwhelming majority have swimming accolades – and will need to pass a trial swim pre-event – there are more variables to consider in open water compared to the swimming pool, such as weather and sea conditions, wind-chill and seasickness. Fong, who vomited mid-swim two years ago, highlighted one other challenge.

Alex Fong Lik-sun crosses the finishing line at the Sandy Bay Swimming Shed, Pok Fu Lam after swimming around Hong Kong Island in 2019. Photo: SCMP / Nora Tam

“What I’m afraid of is jellyfish. I’m very worried. Even at an event yesterday they were saying they saw dozens in the space of 15km at different points on the race. Hong Kong gets a lot of jellyfish and sting rays when it’s hot – and they’ll sting you. It’ll be a bit better in November when it’s cooler,” he said, adding that he will have white vinegar prepared for lathering should he get stung.

Swimmers will swim in a fixed order with different allocated starting times and will interchange at 30-minute intervals. Pilot boats, support kayaks and paramedics will be keeping a watchful eye throughout, with early predictions of brisk 24-degree-Celsius water.

Funds will be allocated to the school’s development, while some of it will be donated to organisations helping local underprivileged swimmers in water-safety and other water sports, such as the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club Charity Foundation.

St Joseph’s College student and alumni swimmers show messages of support at the kick-off ceremony of the Green and White Swimathon 2021 event at the school in May. Photo: St Joseph’s College Green and White Swimathon Organising Committee

It will reportedly be the “first-ever round-the-island group relay swim” in the city. The first official relay swim around Hong Kong Island was completed by a group of five men called The Drifters in 2018. In May, trio Cae Tolman, Mandy Tik Tolman and Alec Stuart became the first mixed relay to do so. Fong’s plan is to start and end at Sandy Bay Swimming Shed, passing the likes of Central, Cape D’Aguilar and Aberdeen along the way.

“It is heartwarming to see [St Josephs College] old boys from different generations joining hands in organising the Swimathon and raising funds for their alma mater’s redevelopment project,” said College principal Wong Yuen-fan, who was met with applause from students after saying she would swim 45km in a swimming pool before the event. “I’m worried about going into the sea, and as you can see I’m not the most athletic, but I want to show my support.”

Tang, expected to be one of the most senior swimmers given he was part of the school’s “Class of 1979”, expressed hesitation over his physical condition to Fong on stage. Known locally as the “Prince of the Pool”, Tang said he had not swum much in recent years.

“We’ll prepare beers for you on the boats, so that when we recover from our swim we can have one together,” Fong joked to the former national 200m individual medley record-holder, a record he took over in 1997.

Fong said he was excited to be back swimming “with my SJC brothers” and highlighted the school’s reliable conveyor belt of elite national swimmers. He added that there is a “huge difference” in the swimming scene since his elite days.

“If I really wanted to learn a certain swimming stroke, I’d have to swim to the bottom of the pool and watch how my seniors did it. If I thought they swam it well, I’d copy their style. Now you can learn from anyone. if you want to learn from [Michael] Phelps, you can. I actually realised in retrospect that a lot of my techniques were wrong or not good enough. I could have improved a lot more, but it’s all in the past now.”

The 41-year-old Fong previously congratulated youngsters Lau Shiu-yue and Peter Whittington, who broke his respective 20-year-long national 200m backstroke and 400m medley records in the space of a month in April.


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