Swim­mer drowns dur­ing HK har­bor race

China Daily (USA) - - CHINA - By SHADOWLI in Hong Kong stushadow@chi­nadai­lyhk.com

A male swim­mer drowned onSun­day while par­tic­i­pat­ing in Hong Kong’s an­nual crosshar­bor swim­ming race, while a fe­maleswim­meris said to be in crit­i­cal con­di­tion in a hos­pi­tal’s in­ten­sive-care unit.

The man, sur­named Ho, was pulled un­con­scious from the wa­ter by a res­cue boat 300 me­ters from the fin­ish line at about 9:30 am.

The 46-year-old father of a 15-year-old daugh­ter and a 4-year-old son was de­scribed by his par­ents as a man who loved to swim. He had com­pleted the cross-har­bor swim ev­ery year since it was re­in­stated in 2011. Ho was also a reg­u­lar marathon run­ner.

Ho was taken to the Pamela Youde Nether­sole Eastern Hos­pi­tal in Chai Wan. A 60-year-old woman had been pulled from the wa­ter mo­ments ear­lier.

Ac­cord­ing to Ho’s par­ents, he had been em­ployed as a tech­ni­cian at the Univer­sity of Hong Kong for more than 15 years and was given a longterm ser­vice award be­fore leav­ing to take a post on the Chi­nese main­land. Ho re­turned to Hong Kong two months ago.

The tragedy was the first recorded death in the for­mal swim­ming race since it was re­sumed in 2011, hav­ing been sus­pended for decades ow­ing to pol­lu­tion in the har­bor.

Ron­nie Wong Man-chiu, pres­i­dent of event or­ga­nizer the Hong Kong Am­a­teur Swim­ming As­so­ci­a­tion, ex­pressed sad­ness over the tragedy and of­fered his con­do­lences to the de­ceased man’s fam­ily. Wong said the as­so­ci­a­tion will re­viewthe cir­cum­stances sur­round­ing the man’s death to im­prove safety stan­dards for swim­mers.

Ac­cord­ing toWong, par­tic­i­pants were asked to fin­ish a 1,500-me­ter swim within 45 min­utes in or­der to qual­ify to par­tic­i­pate in Sun­day’s event, and sev­eral safety mea­sures were es­tab­lished to lower safety risks for swim­mers.

This year, more than 120 res­cuers were de­ployed in the wa­ter, and a gi­ant red bal­loon was set aloft at the fin­ish line to guide par­tic­i­pants. A res­cue boat with life-sav­ing equip­ment was po­si­tioned ev­ery 20 to 30 me­ters along the course.

Lobo LouieHung-tak, as­so­ciate professor of phys­i­cal ed­u­ca­tion at Hong Kong Bap­tist Univer­sity, sug­gested that or­ga­niz­ers tighten rules for qual­i­fi­ca­tion. Cur­rently, par­tic­i­pants are al­lowed to en­ter the race up to two years af­ter pass­ing pre-race qual­i­fi­ca­tion.

Louie also pro­posed a phys­i­cal body check for ap­pli­cants be­fore they are cleared to par­tic­i­pate.

Hong Kong Swim­ming Teach­ers’ As­so­ci­a­tion chair­man Ye­ung Che-to sug­gested that the pre-race qual­i­fy­ing events be hosted at beaches in­stead of swim­ming pools to bet­ter sim­u­late the cross-har­bor con­di­tions, adding that strong cur­rents recorded on Sun­day morn­ing would have af­fected the swim­mers’ en­durance.

Swim­mers started in groups near the Lei Yue Mun fish­ing vil­lage in Kowloon at about 8:30amand fin­ished at Sai Wan Ho on the op­po­site side of Vic­to­ri­aHar­bour.

Charles Pe­ter­son from the United States claimed the men’s ti­tle, cross­ing the fin­ish line in 16 min­utes, 44.3 sec­onds. The women’s winner was Rio Olympics 10 kilo­me­ter gold medal­ist Sharon van Rouwen­daal of the Nether­lands, whofin­ished in 16 min­utes, 55.9 sec­onds.

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