Sun Yang Dedicates Chinese Nats Victory To Friend Kenneth To


*Note: Results are only available through Chinese app

Chinese superstar Sun Yang earned his 2nd victory of the 2019 Chinese Nationals with his 1:45.73 gold medal-garnering time in the men’s 200m free. On night 1, however, the 27-year-old rocked a mark of 3:43.73 to take the 400m free event, albeit with significant emotions attached.

After exiting the pool and settling himself post-race, Sun reportedly broke down in tears as he dedicated his win to the late Kenneth To, the 26-year-old Australian-turned-Hong Kong athlete who passed away suddenly while training in Florida.

“I wanted to have a great performance today because I did not swim only for myself. I wanted to try my best to honor my friend Kenneth,” Sun stated.

“When I heard the news, I could not hold back the tears. I could not believe it. I still remember the meal we had together in Hangzhou.”

Sun and To joined forces as part of the men’s 4x100m freestyle relay at the 13th Annual National Games of China in back in 2017. To was handpicked by China to join Sun on the men’s relay, able to compete under new competition rules allowing different provinces to be represented together.

Both swimmers had been training at the Hong Kong Sports Institute where To was normally based, with Sun making the facility his home in preparation for that year’s Games.

On-deck this week, Sun said,”Being a professional swimmer is not easy. We all face huge pressure physically.

“More and more people are paying attention to swimming, which can put huge mental pressure on us. I just hope every athlete can stay healthy.

“Being a professional athlete is a dangerous profession. Long-term overload training is the path we choose to chase our dreams.”

Sun posted on the Chinese app Weibo in memory of To, “You stopped on the road of chasing the dream, but we will charge forward fearlessly. Thank you for everything you’ve done for swimming.”

Speaking to his own current condition, Sun said, “After a period of extremely intensive training, now I’ve finally returned to competition. But I’m actually not in perfect condition because we were really exhausted during winter training. Many of my teammates were sick.

“For me, being here healthy and finishing the competition smoothly after the intensive training are really good signs that I’m on track.

“I set a season-best time even in such difficult conditions, which is evidence that I can bring more honor back to our nation at the Gwangju world championships (in July in South Korea).”

Sun’s coach, Zhu Zhigen, said,”For Sun, the main thing is being relaxed and avoiding shouldering a heavy burden.

“Athletes don’t have to be perfect at every competition. He just needs to hit the targets we set. That’s good enough.”

Sun made the 800m final set for tomorrow here at Chinese Nats and is still entered in the 1500m free, although he has a love/hate relationship with that grueling race.

“I need to maintain a good performance to let the fans see I’m capable of lasting the pace of a long event,” says Sun.

“I can still compete with others round after round. It’s tough. It’s tiring and difficult for me. I need medical treatment to recover every day. But I hope by next year all of the effort will be worthwhile.”

All quotes courtesy of

In This Story

Leave a Reply

Notify of
newest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
2 years ago

I’ll gladly set aside any misgivings I may have about Sun Yang and say that it was nice of him to honor Kenneth To.

2 years ago

do we have any more information about To’s passing?

bear drinks beer
Reply to  eagleswim
2 years ago

If he doesn’t have congenital health problems, I’m wondering whether it is because Troy’s workload is too heavy for him. To is a tiny guy who’s only 5’7″, so he’s not as physically strong as most swimmers. And we all know Troy’s training is very very hard.
But that’s only my speculation. In Asian culture, people are typically unwilling to damage one’s body after his passing, so we may never know the actual reason. May him rest in peace.

2 years ago

As mentioned earlier, Sun Yang by nature and character is very expressive ( teary eyes not theatrical) upon hearing the death of Kenneth To,Today he tearfully dedicated his win and fine performance to the memory of great individual / mentor/ dedicated swimmer Kenneth To. More should be done why and how come an elite swimmer like him died under such circumstance ie. probably alot of rigorous and underwater training programs of which resulted blood poisoining , depleted oxygen or cardiac seizure. Any preventive supplements (sports science)to ameliorate this risky extreme sports so that wonderful young swimmers like To wouldn’t just leave this world unknowingly the danger and risk involved to be the top of his trade . To us this… Read more »

Ol' Longhorn
Reply to  Bkkang
2 years ago

Just putting this out there —- don’t think there’s any evidence that underwater training causes heart damage or is inherently dangerous to the trained athlete. If you have some, share it, because that would be important information for the public to know.

Reply to  Ol' Longhorn
2 years ago

There have been too many incidents of swimmers pushing themselves and their team mates to go farther. Seizures have occurred as well as death.

Reply to  Slt
2 years ago

Most pools in Florida have signs starting no underwater swimming that kind

About Retta Race

Retta Race

Swim analyst, businesswoman.

Read More »