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Filipino Olympian joins fund-raising swim

11 November 2023

 

Olympic athletes Jasmine Alkhaldi and Toto Wong joined the 11-hour swimming relay around HK

Filipino Olympian Jasmine Alkhaldi joined two other Olympic athletes in the inaugural “Make Waves for Hong Kong”, a 45km multi-relay swim around Hong Kong Island last Nov. 4, helping raise $3 million for Splash Foundation, a charity providing free learn-to-swim programs for domestic helpers.

Alkhaldi joined fellow Olympic athletes Camille Cheng and Toto Wong in leading 30 elite swimmers who helped raise the funds for Splash, whose aim is to address swim illiteracy in Hong Kong, where only half of the population know how to swim despite its long coast line and abundance of swimming pools.

Aside from domestic helpers, Splash also provides free swimming lessons to underprivileged individuals, including low-income families and children with special educational needs.

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“Swimming in the dark was definitely something I was anxious about but I found it calming and almost meditative - especially seeing the lights set up for us by supporters and Splash beneficiaries at 3am in the morning,” Alkhaldi said. “The camaraderie of this whole event has been great and it's been a pleasure to support Splash’s amazing program to teach people to swim.”

Also among the swimmers were amateurs new to open water swimming, among them Rachael Guan, a breast cancer survivor, who swam as part of her rehabilitation.

“I have come such a long way from accepting the challenge, committing to training, to completing the swim. For me, swimming is about potential, and this has been an empowering experience for me. Never thought I’d achieve something like this - but I’m owning it!” she said.

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The first relay swimmers, grouped into five teams, started the 11-hour event at  3:15am in Sandy Bay near Cyberport.

They were relieved 30 minutes later by the next relay swimmers stepping in outside Kennedy Town, and then progressing clockwise through Victoria Harbor as the sun came up, to Chai Wan, Shek O, around Cape D’Aguilar and on to Stanley, Ap Lei Chau, and finishing back at Sandy Bay.

The first team to reach the finish line was former Hong Kong Olympic swimmer Annemarie Munk’s Purple Team in 10 hours 14 minutes and 55 seconds. Shortly thereafter, the other four teams finished the swim, with the final team, Team Orange, completing the swim in 11 hours and 26 minutes.

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The swimmers were greeted by enthusiastic supporters and beneficiaries of Splash Foundation.

Said Camille Cheng, Hong Kong Olympic swimmer: “It’s been an incredible experience to do this iconic Hong Kong swim again, this time with multiple relay teams. Swimming truly brings people together and today, we were able to make it possible for thousands more people to experience the joy of swimming as well. Hopefully one day it will be the norm that everyone in Hong Kong learns to swim, and until then, we will keep pushing to make swimming accessible.”

Funds raised from Make Waves for Hong Kong will benefit Splash Foundation's free learn-to-swim program.

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Since its establishment in 2015, Splash Foundation has taught over 6,000 individuals to swim, achieving a 90% success rate after only 20 hours of instruction.

Roy Pang, chairperson of Splash Foundation, who also swam in the relay, said: “I would like to express my deepest appreciation to our incredible staff, volunteers, swim community, corporate sponsors and donors, whose tireless efforts and generosity ensured the success of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for our 30 swimmers to swim 45km around the beautiful coastline of Hong Kong Island.”

Make Waves for Hong Kong is the largest swim and fundraising campaign Splash Foundation has undertaken.

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“We look to make this an annual event that allows Splash to continue its mission to teach key water safety and swimming skills to thousands more in our underprivileged communities,” Pang said. 

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