Ex-coach hails Haughey’s ‘mental toughness’

A former coach of Siobhan Haughey says the Hong Kong swimming star’s mental toughness has helped her become the best swimmer in the territory’s history, describing her strength as “a special gift from God”.

After becoming the first Hong Kong athlete to get two medals at the same Olympics, Haughey, 23, said on Friday that she thinks swimming is 80 percent psychological and 20 percent about fitness.

Colman Wong, who coached Haughey at the South China Athletics Association for four years from when she was 10, said she has always handled pressure well.

“For Siobhan, it’s just her nature. Just God’s special gift to her to allow her to perform in such a high level. When I coached her, she was always like that. She never ever had a big problem in racing,” he told RTHK.

Wong said it’s clear that Haughey is among the best athletes in the world at turning stress into energy.

Yet, even to him, he said, the swimmer’s historic achievement is unreal.

“It’s unbelievable. I know it’s coming, but, it looks like it’s not real. But now she did it. So fantastic!” he told RTHK.

“[I’m] so amazed to see a girl achieve her childhood dream to become an Olympian and also get medals in the most difficult events like 100 metre and 200 metre freestyle.”

Wong, who’s now coaching in Australia, said he hopes Haughey’s ability to perform at a high level in sport and also academically will help convince parents that their children could do the same.

Former Hong Kong swimmer Sherry Tsai, a three-time Olympian herself, said she felt Haughey had achieved “a mission impossible” for the SAR.

“It’s very hard for Asian swimmers to be on top of the world in swimming, especially in freestyle. Usually, swimmers from the US or Europe are stronger in this event,” Tsai told RTHK.

“I think no one has ever thought that Hong Kong swimmers can be winning Olympic medals….I think she set a very good example, a good role model for Hong Kong swimmers.”