Kenneth To, a record-breaking Hong Kong-Australian swimmer who had his sights on the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, died suddenly after a training session in the United States, officials said on March 19. He was 26.
To, who holds 17 Hong Kong records and won a silver medal as part of Australia’s 4×100 meter medley relay squad at the 2013 world championships, was in the United States for a three-month training program at the University of Florida.
To, who was born in Hong Kong and raised in Australia, died on Monday. The cause of death was not disclosed.
Record-breaking Hong Kong swimmer Kenneth To King-him has died suddenly aged 26 in the US, the Hong Kong Sports Institute has confirmed in a statement. pic.twitter.com/6qufK5sHcn
— A Point News (@APointNews) March 19, 2019
“He felt unwell at a training session and was taken to hospital where sadly, he passed away,” the Hong Kong Sports Institute, where To was an Elite Scholarship Athlete since 2016, said in a statement.
“He was extremely popular and loved by his team mates and competitors. Kenneth was known as a truly exceptional person, warm, funny and kind. His sudden passing is a huge loss to local sports.”
To, who transferred his nationality in 2016 to swim for Hong Kong, first began to shine at the 2010 Youth Olympic Games in Singapore where he earned six medals, including gold in the 4x100m medley.
In 2012, To won the men’s overall title in the FINA Swimming World Cup, before claiming three medals in the FINA World Swimming Championships in Istanbul.
— Kenneth To – 杜敬謙 (@kennethkhto) March 10, 2019
He was also a member of the Australian teams at the 2014 Commonwealth Games that captured gold in the 4x100m freestyle and silver in the 4x100m medley.
World swimming governing body FINA said in a statement it learned with “immense sadness” about To’s death and described him as a reference and example for the youth in the territory.
Australian swimmer James Magnussen posted a tribute to To on Instagram, saying: “Shocking news to hear of the passing of my competitor but most of all, friend – @kennethkhto. We’ve been racing each other and making teams together since we were 16.
“He will remain one of the fiercest competitors I’ve ever stood on the blocks next to. I firmly believe that for a long period he was pound for pound, the best swimmer in the world.
“RIP little guy, you won’t be forgotten.”
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Shocking news to hear of the passing of my competitor but most of all, friend – @kennethkhto We’ve been racing each other and making teams together since we were 16. He will remain one of the fiercest competitors I’ve ever stood on the blocks next to. I firmly believe that for a long period he was pound for pound, the best swimmer in the world. RIP little guy, you won’t be forgotten.
Kenneth To was active on Twitter. His last tweet was a picture with his coach and training crew.
— Kenneth To – 杜敬謙 (@kennethkhto) March 13, 2019
To had shared a picture of his training from Florida. “Been a great 2 months of training in Florida. Excited to race my first Pro Swim Series meet in the US tomorrow!” he said in a Tweet.
— Kenneth To – 杜敬謙 (@kennethkhto) March 7, 2019