“A Lot Of Home Workouts”: How Olympic Swimmer Siobhan Haughey Prepared For Tokyo
After a year-long postponement, the Tokyo Olympics are finally underway. Gen.T honouree Siobhan Haughey, one of Hong Kong’s top medal hopes at the Games, talks tactics, training and competing in the time of Covid
In Rio de Janeiro five years ago, Siobhan Haughey became the first female swimmer from Hong Kong to qualify for the semi-finals at any Olympic Games.
In Tokyo, the 23-year-old hopes to go one step further and win Hong Kong’s first swimming medal at the Olympics.
But her preparations, like those of most athletes, have been significantly disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic. Virtual sessions with a coach half the world away, home workouts under lockdown and training in a lake in freezing temperatures are just some of the obstacles Haughey has had to overcome on her way to Tokyo 2020.
She talks to Gen.T about overcoming whatever life throws at you to hit your peak performance when it matters.
How did the year-long postponement of the Olympics affect your preparation?
When I first heard that the Olympics were being postponed, I was pretty devastated because I was training really well at the beginning of 2020 and was on track to swim my best times at the 2020 Olympic Games. I also didn’t know how that extra year would take a toll on my physical and mental health. But now, one year later, I realised that the extra year was actually a blessing. I had more time to train and prepare my body to be the best it can be for the Olympics.
This is your second Olympic Games. What are your hopes this time around?
I went to my first Olympics in 2016 when I was only 18. I was so young back then; I didn’t really know what to expect. Now, five years later, I’m more mature as a person and swimmer, and definitely have more expectations on my performances. I hope to final in at least two of my events: I’ll be competing in the 50m, 100m, and 200m freestyle. When I get to the finals, I just want to try my very best, see what happens and, of course, have fun.
How did the pandemic impact your training?
I was still training in the US when Covid-19 happened. Pools and gyms were closed. I wasn’t able to train in the pool for almost three months. In order to stay fit while we were in lockdown, I did a lot of at home workouts in my apartment in Michigan. When the weather was slightly warmer, 13 degrees celsius, my teammate and I would go to a lake near where we live and try to swim. Even though we had wetsuits on, we could only swim for around 15 minutes because the water was freezing.
And that’s when you decided to come back to Hong Kong?
Eventually I decided that this training wasn’t really the Olympic preparation I was hoping for, so I flew back to Hong Kong, since the pool at the Sports Institute was open for national team members. I’ve been training in Hong Kong since June 2020. My coach was still in the US, but he would send me workouts every morning and I would train with a group of teammates who all also came back to Hong Kong because of Covid-19. Although I’m still doing the same kind of training, it’s a lot of fun training with new people. They make training a lot more fun, and so far it’s been going well!
How are you gearing up for the experience of a very different Olympics?
It will definitely be a different Olympics experience than the one I had in Rio. I’ve been very careful with being safe and healthy since Covid-19, and will be doing the same when I’m in Tokyo. There are more safety rules in place this time around. While they may be inconvenient at times, these rules are there to ensure all people involved are safe. At the end of the day, I’m just happy that it is happening. Athletes put in so much time and effort and energy for this one competition that only happens once every few years. It would be disappointing if we didn’t get the chance to show the world what we are capable of doing.