As the world awoke on Tuesday to news of the passing of 26-year old professional swimmer Kenneth To, emotional rememberances spread across social media.
- Click here to read more about To’s accomplishments in the water, and the emerging circumstance of his death.
It always hurts when we lose someone as young as 26, but without intending to rank tragedies, it always hurts a little more when the person lost shines a light on the world as brightly as Kenneth.
First, a personal anecdote, and then I’ll share some of the thoughts that have come out from people far more important than me.
In 2010, when my then-partner Andrew Scherer and I were working on one of SwimSwam’s predecessor sites called The Swimmers Circle, we were chugging along, and slowly-but surely building our audience. This was in the early days of social media, where things were less predictable, less steady, and less scientific.
One day, we suddenly saw a 300-person bump in our fan page. When I went to try and figure out why, it was because Kenneth To had liked our page, and commented on an article. It was a point of motivation for us because, at a time where we weren’t sure what it was going to become, To was the first elite swimmer to engage us, and he did so at an age (18) and a point in his career where in his native Australia, he carried a lot of influence. He brought a light to our efforts and our passions, and that’s something that continued throughout the rest of his life, into SwimSwam, and with different members of the staff. He was always willing to share, always willing to chat, and always was upbeat and positive. At the time we were small, just some guys trying to do something good, and he gave us the time. It’s clear by the breadth of people who were touched personally by him that we weren’t alone.
While a very minor share of his character and positivity, the outpourings from teammates, competitors, and administrators around the world who knew To indicate that this was the way he always was, on scales large and small, from those who knew him daily to those who only knew him once. Swimming New South Wales, where To used to train before moving to Hong Kong and eventually the US, said that he “will be remembered as much for his results in the pool, as well ass being the true gentleman he was outside of it.
“Achieving results was a key focus for Kenneth, however, he always made sure he was there to support the team and was loved by all his teammates. His work ethic was second to none and was inspirational for all those who trained with him.”
The number of tributes on social media are almost uncountable, but we’ve selected some to post below. You can check his tagged images on Instagram to see more here.
Rest easy Kenny – your never ending happiness and laughter will be missed on pool deck by so many https://t.co/WnzYrM8blq
— Bec Welke (@BecWelke) March 19, 2019
Very saddened to hear this. I only met Kenneth a couple of times but Sal was on many teams with him. A beautiful human being. https://t.co/lkOX3i4Pn1
— Andrew Hunter (@AndrewHunter__) March 19, 2019
I am shook to the core. I met Kenneth a few years ago at an awards night and had a great conversation with him. Always thought highly of him, very respectful and was one of the rising stars in the Australian Swim Team. Such sad news! Thoughts to Kenneth's family and friends. https://t.co/KytYtRgEya
— Claire (@Claire_Roko) March 19, 2019