1. Looking back do you feel that your early age education prepared you for the life challenges ahead? How do you think that future education can address in a more holistic way the issues of resilience and mental fortitude?
Competitive swimming was a substantial part of my childhood and it certainly molded my character to a large extent. That said, both “in” and “out” of the classroom experiences helped me gain confidence in handling life. There is definitely a place for holistic teaching in the future of education. The lesson on character is endless and it is mostly acquired through doing. Education “in the classroom” may benefit from extending beyond traditional emphasis on lecturing to more experimentation i.e. real-life projects. “Outside of the classroom,” youths can benefit from character building by taking their passions to a high level. The path to any mastery is often ardenous but rewarding – it may lead to better introspection and fortitude. I also think that having a safe place, be it inside or outside of school, for youths to get guidance and take care of their emotional and mental wellbeing is central to developing essential characteristics.
2. It takes a lot of commitment and sacrifices for a young kid to reach the levels you have reached in your professional swimming career. Where is that fire coming from? Do you even know?
For me, the fire was flames of passion. I was lucky to come across something I personally found so enchanting. The flickering sound, anti-gravity and shapelessness were an endless exploration to my natural curiosity. Two decades later and I’m still learning how to “be the flow” – both literally and metaphorically – and have tried countless ways to decipher the mysterious element. I knew that swimming was going to run through my veins and aspired to be one of the best in navigating through the water – that was, to make the Olympics. That helped me with all the patience, discipline and hard work needed to make it happen. It turned out to be a humbling and rewarding experience.
3. Can you describe a moment in your swimming career where you felt maybe scared or even paralysed by anxiety, and yet overcome the fear to your advantage? How does this happens?
For quite a few years, I was an empty shell going through the motions in training and racing. It wasn’t passion in the driver’s seat but instead the fear of failure and the burden of someone else’s expectations. I thought I had quit – then slowly came self-knowledge and vulnerability that brought me back to full. Like many stories of stagnation, somehow the “why” was lost along the way. Being candid with oneself and figuring out the “why” became my source of light.
4. You keep yourself quite busy with a wide variety of activities. Tell us more about how important is your engagement with MIND HK.
Being able to have a positive impact – big or small – on others is what I live for. Mind Hong Kong has been central to my philanthropic efforts. My worldview is that everyone deserves the right to live out their best selves – the Mind is the vehicle to unlock such unique potentials. The stigma around mental health is still prevalent in Hong Kong with 1 in 7 individuals experienced mental health issues and the reality of limited resources. To solve HK’s situation, we targeted it from a variety of angles, ranging from building one of the world’s first bilingual AI mental health chatbox “Help Me”, to conducting “Mental Health First Aid” courses, to launching “Move it” campaigns.
5. You have recently announced that you won’t be able to join the Tokyo Olympic, because of the pandemic situation. What is your next big goal now? Where do you want to put your energy and focus?
Every stage in life invites new goals. I’m very pleased and grateful with my athletic career and would like to redirect my energy and focus on philanthropy and business management/strategy. How wonderful would it be to be part of something that leaves a legacy? At this point, I am thrilled about the endless possibilities out there!