Two-thousand swimmers took to one of the world’s busiest waterways in Hong Kong yesterday to compete in a gruelling cross-harbor contest that traces its roots back more than a century.
Participants aged 12 to 75 raced from the Lei Yue Mun region of the Kowloon Peninsula to Quarry Bay on Hong Kong Island, in a course which stretches about 1.5km.
Thousands of swimmers wearing colorful swimming caps dived into the waters of the iconic Victoria Harbor at 8:30am, replacing the normal waterway traffic of ferries and cargo boats.
For the next three hours, the harbor was dotted with participants swimming against the stunning backdrop of the Hong Kong skyline filled with skyscrapers and mountains, lit up by the morning sun.
“The Harbor Race is part of the collective memory of Hong Kong people,” Hong Kong Amateur Swimming Association vice president Ng Kin-sun said.
For 34-year-old information-technology engineer Billy Chau, the event was a rare chance to swim in the iconic waterway.
“I’m very happy to take part in the race because it is difficult to swim in Victoria Harbor and it’s hard to have so many people swimming together,” he said.
“It will be very memorable for me and my friends, I will think back to this experience when I’m older,” 26-year-old public relations officer Candy Law said.
Last year’s event saw an increase in the enrolment limit from 1,800 to 2,000, as well as the inclusion of a new category to attract the world’s top swimmers.
German open water events swimmer Christian Reichert, who won gold at the 2013 FINA World Championships in the 5km team pursuit relay, was the winner in the international male category with a time of 15 minutes and 45 seconds. Poliana Okimoto of Brazil won the international female category with a time of 15 minutes and 56 seconds.
“It’s really special, because you have the high buildings everywhere, you have a good view and that’s awesome,” Reichert said after his victory.
Twenty-year-old Ling Tin-yu, the winner in the 17 to 34 age category of the past two cross harbor races, repeated his success in a winning time of 18 minutes and 44 seconds.
The annual race is a tradition dating back to 1906. It was halted in 1978 due to a deterioration in water quality before being revived by popular demand in 2011.