17-year-old Cheuk Ming-Ho of Hong Kong has achieved a FINA 'B' cut for the Olympics, but his aspirations were almost sidelined by a heart-related issue. Stock photo via Jack Spitser/Spitser Photography
But life since that achievement has been anything but easy, as the teen has been facing heart-related medical issues that almost sidelined his Olympic dreams entirely as of late last year.
Speaking withSouth China Morning Post this week, Ming-ho explained, “I had just completed a two-hour, high-intensity training in the pool and felt very excited as I would leave for a winter training camp in Kunming the following day.
“Suddenly, I was told I had to stop all kinds of training, even light jogging was not allowed because there were some problems with my heart.”
The freestyle ace had gone for a routine medical screening in December, part of the protocol being followed by elite training centre athletes following To’s death, as well as a heart-related death by snooker player Poon Ching-chiu.
“I did suffer myocarditis [inflammation of the heart muscle, which can result in shortness of breath, chest pain, decreased ability to exercise, and an irregular heartbeat] two years ago, but have fully recovered,” said Cheuk. “But it seemed to be more serious this time as I had to stop everything. Suddenly a lot of question marks came up in my mind. If I could not swim again, what could I do? Could I just pick up a sport like chess, which involves little physical activity?
“I have been in swimming training since primary four and became a member of the junior Hong Kong team two years later. The 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games are just around the corner and I am working hard to get the selection as this is the dream of every swimmer. All these efforts over the years would go up in smoke if I couldn’t swim again.”
Cheuk was further examined by cardiologic specialists who ultimately determined that there is nothing alarming about the swimmer’s heart that would need further treatment.
“The cardiologist said the phenomenon may have been caused by the extensive aerobic training over the years and did not find any problem with my heart,” said Cheuk.
“I have prepared for the worst and it was a big relief to be able to focus on my Olympic qualification campaign again.”
“I will be competing in another age group meet in Malaysia in March and the Hong Kong Long Course Time Trial the following month. Both will be the targets for reaching more B standards.”