Swimmer Kenneth To, who won a silver medal for Australia at the 2013 world championships in Barcelona, has died, the South China Morning Post reported. He was 26.
To was training in Florida for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics when he fell ill with an undisclosed malady.
Not long afterward, he was dead.
“(To) felt unwell at a training session and was taken to hospital where sadly, he passed away,” the Hong Kong Sports Institute said on Tuesday in a statement. “Kenneth was known as a truly exceptional person, warm, funny and kind.”
HKSI continued, “He was extremely popular and loved by his teammates and competitors. Kenneth was known as a truly exceptional person, warm, funny and kind. His sudden passing is a huge loss to local sports. The HKSI extends our deepest condolences to Kenneth’s family, teammates and coaches.”
To was born in Hong Kong, but his family moved to Australia when he was a child.
FINA, swimming’s governing body, actually allows for a transfer of nationality.
As such, the Morning Post noted that To transferred his competitive nationality to his native Hong Kong in 2016, where he planned to earn his way onto the team for Tokyo.
To competed in December 2018 at the world championships in Hangzhou, China and placed sixth in the 100-meter individual medley.
To was in the United States to train at the University of Florida in Gainesville alongside the Gator Swim Club.
— Kenneth To – 杜敬謙 (@kennethkhto) March 7, 2019
FINA released a statement noting To’s death with great sadness.
“Owner of many Hong Kong national swimming records, Kenneth To was a reference and example for the youth in the territory,” FINA said. FINA mentioned the various accolades To had accumulated in his career, including multiple medals in the 2010 Youth Olympic Games in Singapore.
“In this moment of grief, FINA sends its heartfelt condolences to To’s entourage and to the entire swimming community in Hong Kong,” the governing body added.
To, when he received an award from the Hong Kong Swimming Association, expressed his delight and gratitude toward his home territory.
“Swimming in Australia was getting to the point of being a little bit repetitive and did not satisfy me in terms of race opportunity and improvement,” To said last May according to the South China Morning Post. “Coming back to Hong Kong has given me a second chance and a new perspective on swimming and swimming in my life. The National Games was exceptional as I raced in front of a big crowd cheering for you.”
It’s pretty clear from the outpouring of love that To will be dearly missed.
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