Passages: Hong Kong National Record Holder Kenneth To Dies at 26

Photo Courtesy: Andy Ross

Sixteen-time Hong Kong National Record Holder and four-time World Championship medalist Kenneth To died at a training session on March 18.

According to the Gator Swim Club, To was training in Gainesville when he went to the locker room after not feeling well.  To was training with the Gator Swim Club in preparation for the 2019 World Championships and 2020 Olympics.

The cause of his death is still uncertain.

“We are all very shocked and saddened by Kenny’s passing and wish his family and friends strength at this incredibly difficult time,” Swimming Australia National Head Coach Jacco Verhaeren said. “He was a much-loved team member with a determined spirit and wonderful personality, so he will be missed by all his peers, coaches and staff.

Personally, I was fortunate to work closely with Kenny in the lead up to the 2014 Commonwealth Games. In that year he suffered a bad back injury after qualification and although he could have pulled out, he refused to give up on the team and did everything he could – it showed the resilience that was instilled in him and was a testament to his character.”

Many former teammates, competitors and coaches have put out similar statements via social media:


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Definitely a shock. He was such a light and pure guy. He will always be my example for any swimmer that puts boundaries on themselves from their height, work ethic, whatever. I would show swimmers who are struggling, insecure, self conscious, his videos, and they would be amazed by his underwaters, beating men maybe a foot or more taller than him. The mental strength of this man and the fortitude he must have had after moving countries, surgery and more, all while working his way back into the sport is a strength not many athletes have in their entire career, expecially since he did it with a smile. Kenneth To, You will not be forgotten, and your example will always be that of strength, resilience and a smile in the face of adversity in competition and in life. I hope your family will be honoured by the prayers, love, support and feeling of pride as they hear from the swimmers and people Kenneth has impacted in such a short time.

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Our Australian Swim Team won’t be the same without you Kenny 😔💔 We’ve lost such a kind hearted, selfless, friendly, warm and authentic person. Kenneth took me under his wing on my first Australian Team (2014 Commonwealth Games Pictured). One of our team activities at these Games in Glasgow was to go on a dinner date with a member of the team. Kenny and I paired up, and I remember him ordering my dinner, then carrying my tray of food around until I finally found a good place for us to sit. He was so hilarious, constantly making jokes and making sure I was having fun 😆 During our dinner date I got to learn so much about him and his incredible journey. My admiration for him as an athlete and a person grew stronger from that night, every time he checked in to make sure I was doing okay. He really did contribute to mine, and many others enjoyment and success on Australian Team tours. His passing has left a hole in our swim team family 😔 There is so much I could write about how amazing he was as an athlete and person. I hope everyone is staying strong ❤️ Rest In Peace Kenneth To ❤️ Australian Swimming Number 705. Taken too young 😣 #kennethto

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I have no words. RIP @kennethkhto

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The 26-year-old was born in Hong Kong before moving to Australia where he was on the Dolphins’ National Team from 2010-2016. In 2017, he then represented Hong Kong at the World University Games. He also won six medals, including gold in the 400 Medley Relay at the 2010 Youth Olympic Games in Singapore.

To’s National Records include the Long Course 50 free, 100 free, 50 breast, 100 breast, 200 IM and 400 medley relay and Short Course 50 free, 100 free, 200 free, 50 breast, 100 breast, 50 fly, 100 fly, 100 IM, 200 IM and 400 IM. From his time in Australia, he also holds National Records for the country in the Short Course 100 and 200 IM.

Most recently, To competed in the 100 free, 200 free and 200 IM at the 2019 TYR Pro Swim Series at Des Moines.

The Hong Kong Sports Institute and Swimming Australia contributed to this report.


  1. Sara Stacy

    Omg Elizabeth Taylor how terrible

  2. Karin Knudson O

    So tragic and sad for his family and friends. Rest In Peace Kenneth.🙏🏻

  3. Bella Hall

    Prayers and condolences to his family!

  4. Dilek Newlon

    So sad. 😪 Gone too soon. RIP young man.

  5. Jane Hardy

    So young
    What awful news

  6. Steven Jackman

    OMG, I never heard of a swimmer dying because of practice, but I swam competitively 56 to 60 years ago. We only were allowed to work out about 4 months a year back then. I would think the swimmers are in much better shape now. Did he have and unknown cardiac problem? Anyway, RIP

    • Iliahuz Zidane

      They still don’t know what the cause.
      I also don’t think it’s about the practice.

  7. Linda Engledow

    Heartbreaking.😢 Too soon too young. Condolences to his family and friends. R.I.P.

  8. Patty Sullivan Reynolds

    so young … our sincere and heartfelt condolences to his family and friends.

  9. Trudy Marais

    So sad . Rest you briliant swimmer and person. Gone too soon