Sports Hero

Outstanding Finswimming Coaches in the Community: HO Yee-mei, YIP Chi-man 



Finswimmers have a reputation for being like “mermaid swimmers”. Swimming with fins proves to be extraordinarily challenging in terms of swimmers’ cardio-pulmonary fitness and skills. The Hong Kong Underwater Association (the Association) spares no effort in promoting finswimming. Having won the “Community Coach Recognition Awards”, both HO Yee-mei and YIP Chi-man have been devoting to this sport for over a decade. Despite having retired as athletes and now working as coaches, the duo remains very passionate about finswimming. Both of them hope to continue to promote finswimming to members of the public.


Finswimming propels forward a swimmer by the swinging of his/her waist and abdomen. Swimmers must wear fins on their feet, occasionally aided by breathing equipment. There are broadly three categories in finswimming, namely surface finswimming, apnea finswimming, and immersion finswimming with breathing equipment. Coach HO Yee-mei first met the sport 14 years ago, as a result of serendipity, when a promotion class was open for enrolment. Already a diving licence holder, she felt like having a taste of swimming with fins in swimming pools. She therefore signed up for the class and has since developed an inextricable association with finswimming. She highlighted finswimming demanded lightning speed, thereby bringing great excitement to her.


Currently the local record holder in 800-meter immersion finswimming, Coach HO believes that practice is of utmost importance to swimmers, as “all championships boil down to just one thing, hard work”. She recalled the extra training she had to put in to hone her turning technique for the 800-metre race. To avoid making mistakes during the race, she practised relentlessly making a thousand turns within a short span of time. Her experience epitomises the relentless effort needed to secure success. 


For Coach HO, there are marked differences in terms of significance between being an athlete and a coach. In her opinion, athletes may have a reasonable expectation for accomplishing notable achievements, as long as they remain committed to striving towards the goals set by coaches. But it is a different story for coaches, who not only need to always put themselves in students’ shoes to help them overcome obstacles, but to customise the training plan content to suit individuals’ needs and abilities. There are a lot more things coaches need to take care of, with which come greater responsibilities.


Coach HO thinks it is her mission to promote finswimming, for learning finswimming brings various benefits for students, such as enhancing children’s physical development. In addition, demanding high speed, finswimming gives swimmers a huge sense of satisfaction and boosts self-confidence, while helping them master other water sports more easily. 


With over a decade of experience in finswimming, Coach YIP Chi-man, just like Coach HO, was once an athlete. He also agrees with her that coaches must adopt a holistic approach in taking care of their students’ needs. In addition to setting training goals for them, coaches must also render emotional support, including how to combat mental stress and tackle mental conditions during and after competitions. Meanwhile, they must maintain seamless communication with parents, in the hope of helping students make improvements.


Coach YIP joked about first getting into finswimming to stay fit. He found swimming classes mostly boring, but finswimming relatively more fun. He first practised just once a week, and later became more serious, planning to enrol in competitions with friends. Since then, his training frequency had increased to three to four times a week. Coach YIP was frank to state that training was somewhat tough, but the gatherings with friends after training were so enjoyable and relaxing. They are memories he cherishes even now.


On the biggest headaches a coach faces, Coach YIP indicated that since swimming practices have been suspended in recent years due to the epidemic, he had to revise the training plan content for switching to online teaching, in a bid to make his students remain passionate about sports. He pointed out that the Association encouraged athletes to participate in local and overseas competitions alike, and they had achieved encouragingly solid results over the years.

Coach YIP believes that there is still ample room for growth of finswimming in Hong Kong. He hopes that more young talents can be recruited by organising new courses and promotion activities when the epidemic draws to a close. Meanwhile, adult training classes will also be held, with a view to scouting for more finswimmers with potential.