Siobhan Haughey No Longer Under-the-Radar Heading into Tokyo Olympics

Photo Courtesy: Mine Kasapoglu / ISL

Siobhan Haughey continues to climb higher among the world’s elite swimmers.

She does it with little fanfare. She just puts her head down, quietly does the work, and gets faster.

Often overlooked for years on the international swimming scene, Haughey has made that impossible to do anymore. The best swimmer in the history of Hong Kong has been on a tear the past few years, nearly medaling at World Championships, breaking national and Asian records left and right and qualifying for her second Olympic Games.

Haughey took fourth in the 200 free at the 2019 World Championships, and she swam as quick a 1:54.44 last year, suggesting she could be in medal contention at the Olympics in the event. She also will swim the 100 free (she has been as fast as 52.90) and on Hong Kong’s relays.

Her 200 free time is tied with Taylor Ruck for fourth-fastest since 2016, though Ruck did not qualify for Tokyo in the event. Only Ariarne Titmus (1:53.09), Federica Pellegrini (1:54.22) and Katie Ledecky (1:54.40) have been faster than Haughey since Rio.

With nearly a year between big races, Haughey dominated the International Swimming League (ISL) season. Facing the best in the world, she didn’t lose a single 200 free race for the second year in a row and continued to break Asian records throughout the season in the 100 and 200 free.

Siobhan Haughey (photo: Mike Lewis)

Siobhan Haughey. Photo Courtesy: MIKE LEWIS / ISL

The most impressive part of her record-breaking season was she was doing it without a taper as she continued to train for the Olympics.

“I am happy with how I did, especially with the year we have had,” Siobhan Haughey told Swimming World. “I am just thankful that I had the opportunity to race again and compete. I really love racing.”

Haughey’s last full taper was before the 2019 World Championships, when she finished fourth in the world in the 200 free.

“Definitely I was surprised,” Haughey said . “Heading into the ISL, I wasn’t sure what to expect because it was such an unusual training year. I really wasn’t expecting anything, but I knew I had trained well, so I knew I wouldn’t do too bad, but I was definitely surprised by my results.”

The most surprising race was when Haughey was part of the Energy Standard 4×100 freestyle relay that went faster than the world record in the ISL semifinals.

Siobhan Haughey, Pernille Blume (Denmark), Femke Heemskerk (Netherlands) and Sarah Sjostrom (Sweden) teamed up for a 3:25.82 performance, breaking the short-course world record set by the Netherlands in 2013 (3:26.53).

The speed was not surprising with three of the fastest freestylers in the world, but it was a stunning performance.

“It was definitely a little intimidating at first,” Haughey said. “It was amazing to be on relays with these people. The 4×100 free relay, breaking the world record. We actually didn’t know we swam faster than the world record time until we were walking back to the warm-down pool that we were faster. It was a little shocking.

“It definitely gave me more confidence knowing that I am part of a group of great swimmers on Energy Standard and we can do great things. It was a surreal feeling.”

Haughey belongs in that elite group, but when she first joined Energy Standard, she didn’t know many people on the team.

“I was really excited but kind of nervous at the same time to be on Energy Standard because I didn’t really know anyone. Everyone was so nice and I made so many good friends. Now, going to international meets, I will know so many more people in the swimming world,” Haughey said. “It was a great bonding experience because each team has their own team room and we would go and hang out together.”

Being in the ISL’s six-week bubble season in Budapest gave Haughey a lot of time to analyze her races and work on the little things.

“Throughout the whole season, after every match, I would review my racing match and focus on the small details,” Haughey said. “That definitely helped. A lot of that focused on my turns. After the first match, we saw that it wasn’t as fluid and was kind of slow. That was something I worked on all season. I was working on turning into my last stroke in one full motion.”
It was a much different way to end 2020 than how it began with the COVID-19 pandemic starting to sweep across the globe.

“At the beginning of the year, I didn’t have the access to train. Then I was just really happy to train. It gave me motivation to get going,” she said.

Haughey, who was a 14-time All-American at the University of Michigan, had been training in Ann Arbor with Club Wolverine until the pandemic shut pools down. Even when they began to open, they were for current college swimmers only, not post-grad swimmers.

So Haughey returned home to Hong Kong to continue training up until the ISL season, then returned to Hong Kong again after Budapest.

She is training at the Sports Institute in Hong Kong.

“I am training at the Sports Institute, which is like the Olympic Training Center in the U.S., where you have a bunch of sports that train there together and live there. I live at the training center,” she said. “I wake up and walk to the pool. I train from 7:30-9 a.m. in the pool, then go have breakfast. I lift from 10-11 and go back to my room and rest, then lunch. Afternoon training starts at 4, or 3:30 with dryland. It is 4-6, then a shower, then dinner. Then our team will do something together to relax.”

jamie-yeung 4

Jamie Yeung (left) and Siobhan Haughey. Photo Courtesy: Jamie Yeung

Having that team is something Haughey hasn’t had for more than a year.

“I definitely think the team is very important. Rick Bishop from Michigan still sends me workouts every morning. We have six of us that do the same workout,” Haughey said. “Jamie Yeung and I are used to the training. It is definitely great having them there. It makes training refreshing.”

Especially Yeung, who has been a national teammate and Michigan teammate to Haughey, and will swim on the Hong Kong medley relay with her in Tokyo.

“Jamie and I have both grown up so much. It is always nice having her around. We have gotten a lot closer since we graduated. I just want to be there when she is at her last swim meet,” Siobhan Haughey said.

Haughey has already qualified for Tokyo in the 100 and 200 freestyle events. She made the semifinals in the 200 freestyle in Rio in 2016 and is hoping for more in 2021.

“I just want to final at the Olympics. That is an achievable goal, but I still have to work hard for it,” she said. “Whatever happens after that, I can only put in the hard work and control what I can control, and I will get the results that I want.”

It is all about building to that moment.

“Right now we are still a little far enough away from Tokyo where I can put that goal in the back of my head and not thinking about it every day,” she said. “I am someone who focuses on the smaller things. There is something I want to achieve in every practice. If I achieve those, it will lead to the bigger goals.”

But after her performance this past year, Haughey is poised for a great summer.

“I think this definitely gives me a lot more confidence going into the Olympics, especially without a full taper,” Siobhan Haughey said. “I have a good feeling that I will swim pretty well at the Olympics.”