Camille Cheng was always destined for the water. Even from a young age, she tells us, she's always loved swimming and would spend any spare moment practicing her strokes. Shortly into her childhood, she turned her hobby into a passion and fast forward to 2016, an Olympic milestone. We speak to the Hong Kong swimmer on her proudest moments, how to balance training and downtime and what she loves most about the city she grew up in.
Can you tell us about how you got into your career as an Olympic swimmer?
I’ve always loved being in the water – from a young age I spent my hours after school swimming. My mom says that I only needed one swimming lesson when I was little as I took to swimming 'naturally'. It wasn’t until I moved to Beijing when I was nine years old, however that I started competitively swimming. I was in P.E. class when the swimming instructor (a Greek Olympian), told me I needed to join the swimming team and I attribute the start of my competitive career to him. I was also living in Beijing during the 2008 Olympics and it was there watching swimming that the 'Olympic dream’ came to be. 8 years later, including 4 years collegiately at Cal, this dream became a reality.
How do you train?
My training has changed a lot over the years, representative of the different training programmes, coaches and countries I’ve trained in combined with personal preference and changes. A typical week will consist of 6-8 swimming sessions, 2-3 gym sessions, 2 drylands sessions (abs, circuit) and some form of cross-training (yoga, boxing, hiking).
What are the challenges in what you do?
I’d say that being a professional athlete comes with its share of challenges. Training is obviously physically taxing on the body, but I’d say that it is the mental and emotional components that are more challenging. Having been in this sport for now over 20+ years, the challenges of staying motivated, dealing with plateaus or periods of under performance, dealing with injuries, sacrificing other ‘fun' things for training and competition are a few challenges.
What’s been your proudest moment to date?
Making the 2016 Olympic team is one of my top five proudest moments to date.
How do you maintain a healthy work-life balance?
As professional athletes, a lot of our time revolves around our sport – preparing to train, training, and recovering from training. My college coach used to talk to us about a metaphoric ‘well’ and to find things that would fill our well and to make time for those things. For me now, it’s important to include those things – unrelated to sport and training – that helps bring joy and happiness too. I enjoy spending time away from the pool with friends and family, outdoors (beach or hiking), and baking.
What do you love about Hong Kong?
A few things I love about Hong Kong… 1) the food and 2) how you can be in the fast, busy, exciting city part of Hong Kong yet as little as 15 minutes away you can be in the beautiful nature spots of Hong Kong (country parks, beaches, hikes).
Where is your happy place?
My happy place is the water.
Who are your top five inspirations in your life?
Hard question… I feel fortunate to have a lot of people in my life that inspire and motivate me, especially coaches and teammates past and present.
What advice would you give to an aspiring athlete?
Know your “why”, believe in yourself and dream big!
Follow Camille Cheng and her adventures on Instagram.