Before undertaking a 45-kilometre swim around Hong Kong Island for charity in November 2019, I trained for a year in the pool and had my first open water swim in August. But preparation is never enough – I still overestimated my ability, and underestimated the difficulty of the sea.
Before the event, I rented a speedboat to take a field trip to Shek O – but I didn’t notice how big the waves were. On the day of the challenge, the waves repeatedly pushed against my body, making me feel seasick.
People watching from the shore were particularly worried. My coach swam with me for a while, but the waves were huge; one minute I could reach her, the next she was five metres away. One minute she was above me, the next she was below.
I was nervous because I didn’t know how much energy and time I was going to waste. Still, I tried to stay focused. Later, another athlete joined me in the water, which gave me great encouragement.
After the challenge, I understood that swimming alone doesn’t mean swimming alone. A lot of people helped me. People often want to do big things, to change the world. But if you focus on what you can do, it affects everyone around you. I used to think charity was about me helping people, but now I think it’s about people changing me. They make me understand the world better, and make me a better person.
Alex Fong is a Hong Kong singer, actor and former Olympic swimmer who swam around Hong Kong Island in a record-breaking 10 hours and 43 minutes to raise money for A Drop of Life, which brings clean drinking water to impoverished communities in Cambodia, China and Nepal