Olympians In Water for Wellbeing Swim Around Hong Kong Raise Nearly $1 Million For Splash Foundation

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Photo Courtesy: Anthony Kwan

Olympians Raise Nearly $1 Million for Splash Foundation With Water for Wellbeing Open Water Swim Around Hong Kong

After the Tokyo Olympics, Jamie Yeung wanted to help raise awareness for mental health in her native Hong Kong. She also wanted to give back to her sport.

It turns out, she wasn’t the only one.

Yeung and several Hong Kong swimmers teamed up with some members of the community to swim an open water relay around Hong Kong, the Water For Wellbeing swim.

The swim raised mental health awareness and also raised nearly $1 million for Splash Foundation, an organization that gives free swim lessons for low-income families, immigrants and refugees. They also became the first all-female team to ever swim all the way around Hong Kong.

“(Camille Chang, Stephanie Au and I) came together after the Olympics wanting to do stuff in Hong Kong for mental health. We have a passion in sharing our story and getting people to realize that it is as important as physical health. I hadn’t done anything physically to show that support,” Yeung told Swimming World.

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Photo Courtesy: Anthony Kwan

The trio was part of the swim, along with Olympic swimmer Hannah Wilson and 1976 track and field Olympian Karen Robinson as well as two members of the community with no competitive swimming background, Claire Cormier Thielke and Antonia Li.

“Six of us only got together as a group one day before the event. We immediately clicked. It is the first ever women’s relay to go around Hong Kong. We wanted to make history, so no one could wear wetsuits. We started at 3 a.m. and we all swam for 30 minute spans,” Yeung said. “We had a lot of support from the boats and kayaks. I did four 30 minute spans. The first one was in the dark, the next was at sunrise. The third leg was at the end of the most rough section of our swim. There is no island or harbor to shield the water. It was really challenging. Even the people without swimming backgrounds conquered it. That really inspired me.”

The group finished the 45K trek in 10 hours, 59 minutes and 55 seconds.

“We all dove in with Karen and finished together the last couple hundred meters. I am just so glad I was a part of something so amazing and inspiring, not just from my own perspective but putting myself out there and show that everyone can challenge themselves outside their comfort zone,” Yeung said. “We raised over a million dollars. People got even more generous after we were done.”

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Photo Courtesy: Anthony Kwan

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The Water for Wellbeing event was organized in a matter of weeks. Yeung, who made the Tokyo Olympics in the 100 breaststroke and on the Hong Kong 400 medley relay, had never swam open water before.

“I am terribly uncomfortable in open water. But after talking to them on the phone, if there is one thing I can do for mental well-being, this is it,” she said. “I feel confident and braver because of this. But I feel such a joy because the money we raised is going to help a lot of people. Splash helps give training to migrant workers, low-income families, who have the survival skill of swimming. So we are helping so many people learn to swim.”

The mental health awareness also hit home for Yeung and her Water for Wellbeing teammates.

“We have done things on our own to advocate. But we all share the same goal, which is to raise awareness on mental health in Hong Kong,” Yeung said. “The last two years, when I was a full-time athlete and turned pro. The pro team only had a few people. Those two years I struggled mentally because I didn’t have a team like at the University of Michigan. A lot of my best friends were of to their next phase. That was a time I needed more help mentally to stay confident on my swims. I have seen really close friends struggle with this. While there was help, we can always do better. It is a topic that should start way before college. That is why I felt like I had to do something about it. My teammates shared similar experiences. I didn’t know they shared the same passion about this until the Olympics.

“Living as an Olympian give you a voice that people will listen to. That is when I knew I should make use of it. I want to make changes for my community. It makes being an Olympian more special. It is not just being an Olympian, it is acting like one.”

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Photo Courtesy: Anthony Kwan

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Photo Courtesy: Anthony Kwan

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Photo Courtesy: Anthony Kwan

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Photo Courtesy: Anthony Kwan

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