Li Ling Yung Wins Cold Half Extreme Marathon Swim in Hong Kong
“25 solo and relay swimmers competed in the 15 km course from Stanley to Deep Water Bay in the Cold Half Extreme Marathon Swim. For the first time in 11 years, there were more female solo swimmers than male.
With some Covid-19 related restrictions still in place in Hong Kong, travel limitations severely restricted the field of athletes this year. All swimmers were Hong Kong-based residents. In the pre-Covid years, the Cold Half included competitors from the US, Europe and many Asian countries. 2020 saw a peak number of entries, and we hope to see the race build back up to its pre-pandemic glory.
The Cold Half has always been a boutique race because of the distance and low water temperatures at this time of year. In 2013, we had 3 solo entries and all were male. Swimmers in Hong Kong are challenging themselves to do longer and harder swims, and we are attracting top international swimmers as we continue to host competitive, world class events. I’m proud we can offer challenging races like this for the Hong Kong swimming community and beyond.”
Li Ling Yung, a Hong Kong resident from Singapore, was the champion in the Naturally Ocean (non-wetsuit) category in a time of 4 hours 5 minutes. She is a multiple Cold Half swimmer, has also completed the 45 km HK360 circumnavigation swim around Hong Kong Island and was the first woman from Singapore to complete an English Channel crossing. She said, “I thoroughly enjoyed the race with beautiful visibility and temperatures, and a variety of sea conditions, from smooth in the bays to challenging swells around the headlands and crossings. Successful organizational work from Shu and Henry making the day run smoothly and safely, and bringing the swim community back together for a social sporting event.”
In the men’s category Ryan Leung won in 4 hours 21 minutes, a great time for a first time solo.
Returning Hong Kong competitors included Edie Hu who finished second woman in her 7th Cold Half – earning her the title of most experienced Solo Cold Halfer.
In the mixed relay category, Break of Dawn (Miu Tanaka and Adrian Ho) were first mixed and overall team over the line in a formidable 3 hours 42 minutes, followed very closely by husband-and-wife team, Tikki Baddo (Mandy Tik Tolman and Cae Tolman).
The Cold Half is the only long distance, cold-water race in Asia that allows athletes from the region to do a “practice” swim in similar conditions for long marathon challenges and races like the English Channel or Catalina Channel crossings.
The event started at 10 am from Stanley Main Beach, and swimmers competed solo or in teams of two people, under the “wetsuited & buoyant” or “naturally ocean” categories, finishing in Deep Water Bay Beach.
The Cold Half was concurrently held alongside the Cold Plunge, a 1.5 km age-group swim race which also includes “naturally ocean” and “wetsuited & buoyant” categories. There were over 100 entrants this year, with the youngest entrant at 12 and oldest at 68.
Yui Fung Chan, Wetsuited & Buoyant, was the overall and male winner setting a new course record of 18:46, followed in less than a second by his National Triathlon Squad teammate Dominic Carson, also setting a record in a different age category. Pauline Courret, Wetsuited & Buoyant, was the female winner smashing over 3 minutes off her old course record in 19:55. She was followed very closely by National Triathlon Squad teammates Bailee Brown and Zoe Metais. New course records set in the Wetsuited & Buoyant category include: Female U16 Petra Stamenovic in 21:11, and Male 50-59 James Shun in 20:12.
Nicknamed ‘the Italian Stallion’, Francesco Lanzone was the first overall ‘Naturally Ocean’ (No Wetsuit) swimmer over the line in 20:11, also setting a new age group record. Fang Ka Yung (17-39) was champion in the female Naturally Ocean in 23:29, followed in less than a second by U16 swimmer Chiara Mattoli 23:33, both setting new records in their respective age groups. Libby Alexander, co-founder of charity Splash Foundation which the Cold Half and Plunge supports, set a new record in her age category, also Naturally Ocean.
The youngest swimmer on the course by far, 12-year-old Edison Wong swam in the Naturally Ocean category coming in with an impressive 27:16. A massive achievement for a young swimmer to join a tough race without a wetsuit, hopefully we will see big things from him in the future.
The Cold Plunge aims to encourage the participation of the wider open water swimming community in cold water swimming. In the past years, partial proceeds from the event were donated to Ocean Recovery Alliance, a Hong Kong-based ocean conservation charity. This year, organizers raised funds to sponsor 16 entries to swimmers from Splash Foundation, a Hong Kong-based non-profit organization providing free learn-to-swim lessons to foreign domestic workers and underprivileged children. A number of the Splash swimmers were top 3 in their respective age categories, which just goes to show what a great programme Splash is running. As part of the awards ceremony a Splash swimmer, May Rose, shared some heartfelt words about her experience with Splash and the difference it has made in her physical and mental wellbeing.
The race was co-founded in 2013 by Shu Pu, Founder of AVRA and HK360Swim, and Doug Woodring, founder of Ocean Recovery Alliance. The 2023 race director was Henry Wright, a two-time winner and record holder of the Cold Standard, where he completed the 15 km Cold Half swim, followed by the Standard Chartered HK Marathon on consecutive days.
Wright said, “It was great to see all the regular, and some new faces, for one of the first of what we could call ‘normal’ races for the last three years here in Hong Kong. The Cold Half and Plunge community have held together after a brief hiatus and some big changes in race format through Covid-19. It is a breath of fresh air to get back to racing, and this year’s much anticipated mass start thanks to the lowering of group gathering rules. Thank you to everyone for coming down and supporting the event after the uncertainty of the last three years. Shu and I can’t wait to see some of these swimmers make their mark on the swimming and wider world.”
All photos courtesy of Kawai Cheung.
Copyright 2008 – 2023 by World Open Water Swimming Association