Kenneth To was a competitive swimmer who represented Australia and Hong Kong (at different time periods) internationally.
2010 Youth Olympics
at the 2010 Youth Olympics in Singapore, To had an international breakout meet, winning 6 medals for Australia. This included gold in the 4×100 medley relay, silver in the 50 free, 200 IM, and mixed 4×100 free relay, and bronze in the 100 free and mixed 4×100 medley relay.
2010 Jr Pan Pacific Championships
At the 2010 Jr Pan Pacs, To continued to excel and won golds in the 50 free, 100 free, and 4×200 free relay, as well as silver in the 4×100 free and medley relays.
2011 World Championships
At the 2011 World Champs, To’s first long course world champs, he swam the 200 IM, rocking a personal best of 1:59.02 out of the heats to qualify for 3rd heading into semis. He qualified for finals, and ended up placing 7th over all in the final heat.
2012 Australian Nationals
In Adelaide, at the qualifying event for the 2012 Olympic Games, To placed 4th in the 200 IM and 9th in the 100 free, failing to qualify for the Olympic team. 7 weeks earlier, To had required surgery to have his appendix removed. However, because of his performances at the trials, To was selected to compete at the 2012 Oceania Swimming Championships, where he won 7 medals, including gold in the 100 free, 200 free, 200 IM, 4×100 and 4×200 free relays, and silver in the 100 fly and 400 IM.
2012 World Cup
After missing the Australian Olympic team, To went Gung Ho into the World Cup circuit in the fall of 2012, putting up a whopping 195 points to win the overall circuit. His performance was highlighted in Dubai, where he set a new Aussie record in the 100 IM with a 51.43. To cap the year off, To competed at the 2012 Short Course World Champs, where he won 3 medals, including silver in the 100 IM (51.38, new Aussie record) and bronze in the 4×100 free and medley relays.
2013 World Championships
Returning to the long course world champs in the summer of 2013, To swam in the prelims of the 4×100 medley relay, splitting 52.37 on the butterfly leg. Australia went on to win silver in the final heat, garnering To’s first long course world champs medal.
2014 Commonwealth Games
To continued his successes in 2014, winning his first comm games medals in both the 4×100 free (gold) and 4×100 medley (silver) relays.
Back Surgery, Recovery
In August of 2014, To had to pull out of the Pan Pacific Championships in order to undergo back surgery. Specifically, To had an L4-L5 disc herniation, and the surgery was a microdiscectomy. The L4 and L5 verebrae are in the lower back, just above the level of the buttocks. A herniation means that one of the disks between vertebrae has ruptured, with the soft interior pushing out through the tougher exterior of the disk. This can result in greater friction between vertebrae, causing significant pain, numbness, and/or weakness in arms and legs.
1 year after the surgery, To sat down with SwimSwam to discuss what recovery from a surgery like that looked like and how he was progressing and moving forward.
2016 Australian Nationals, Switch to Hong Kong
After missing the Olympic team for a 2nd time under the Australian flag, To decided to switch his international representation to his home country of Hong Kong. This was announced in January of 2017.
Joining Gator Swim Club, Sudden Death
After training in Hong Kong for over 2 years, To decided to make the switch to Gator Swim Club in Gainesville, Florida with coach Gregg Troy. As of moving to Florida, To had set over a dozen national Hong Kong records, including the LCM 50/100 free, 50/100 breast and 200 IM, along with the SCM 50/100/200 free, 50/100 breast, 50/100 fly and 100/200/400 IM.
To competed at the Des Moines Pro Swim in early March of 2019, and participated in a training trip directly following the competition with the Gator Swim Club. Following warm up at a practice on the morning of Monday, March 18, 2019, To felt unwell and was taken to the hospital, where he died that night.
“The Hong Kong Sports Institute was deeply shocked and saddened to learn of the sudden passing away of elite swimmer Kenneth To,” said the HKSI to the Morning Post in a statement. “He was extremely popular and loved by his teammates and competitors. Kenneth was known as a truly exceptional person, warm, funny and kind. His sudden passing is a huge loss to local sports.”