Emily Chong, who has been a volunteer Swim Coach at YMCA Club for over 8 years and is a qualified Personal Trainer through YMCAfit, was a finalist for the very prestigious Asian Women of Achievement Award in the Sports Category, so we caught up with her to find out more about her story. During my interview with Emily, I was genuinely blown away by her drive, determination and desire to break down barriers and help people.
Emily is an athlete who grew up in Hong Kong and moved to the UK for school when she was 13. She casually told me that she “raced for Hong Kong in a couple of Triathlon World Championships and before that, was the Hong Kong champion in wakeboarding. At school I played Judo to a national level, as well as playing lacrosse for Sweden in a European Championship.”
What she didn’t mention until 40 minutes into our conversation was…
“In three years, I went from not being able to swim the length of a pool to competing in the World Triathlon championships”
She explained: “In 2009 I couldn't swim at all but I wanted to do a triathlon, so I had to learn. I was trying to swim one length of this pool and I barely made it. And gradually I improved, one length at a time and eventually I swam the English Channel. It can be done.I started with a sprint triathlon where you only have to do a 400 m swim. I did more and more in training and three years after that, I went to the World Triathlon Championships, competing for Hong Kong. Little by little, you gradually improve yourself.”
Emily, who is now a Swim Coach, fell in love with swimming and with her swim team she swam the 32 km of the English Channel “the hard bit of doing The Channel is the cold water and the darkness, and actually the seasickness is quite bad.'' They also went on to swim the 70 km length of Lake Geneva in 25 hours, considered one of the toughest open water swims, often referred to as ‘The Ultimate Trophy Swim’.
Emily says she enjoys these challenges because she enjoys “being in a team...I like the logistics side of things. I like organizing things, getting into a team situation when you support each other. And I think once you finish it, there is a great effect on other people as well.”
She completed a solo swim from Spain to Morocco across the 22km wide Strait of Gibraltar “That took about five hours and I was horrendously sick in the middle. So I spent three hours vomiting and still trying to swim.”
“All these things seemed crazy at the time. But once you've done it, you realise that actually, if you can get the logistics right and if you train for it, it’s doable.”
Learning to ride a bike, then riding to Paris the following year
“I learnt to ride a bike at University because in Hong Kong there was nowhere to ride a bike. I had one of those foldable bikes and a year after learning how to ride, I decided to do a charity ride from London to Paris. And that's when I really learned how to ride a bike, having to ride four days in a row. I'm one of those people. Once I'm into something I just do lots of it. And keep doing it. Keep thinking about it all day long, until I get it.”