Former Australian Kenneth To has tragically passed away at just 26-years-old.
After reportedly feeling sick at a training camp in Florida, he was rushed to hospital where he later died.
Always the underdog, Kenneth moved to Australia from Hong Kong when he was two, finished high school a year underage and clocked in at just 5 foot 5, a significant disadvantage for an elite swimmer.
Despite this, he broke Ian Thorpe’s decade-old Australian record in the 16 years 200-metre individual medley and won six medals at the 2010 Youth Olympics.
As a professional, he was a world champion gold medallist and battled through a severe back injury at the Glasgow Olympic Games to win a gold and silver medal as a relay swimmer.
“It showed the resilience that was instilled in him and was a testament to his character,” Swimming Australia National Head Coach Jacco Verhaeren.
After narrowly missing out on the Australian Olympic Team in 2012, To moved to his parent’s homeland in Hong Kong where he currently holds 17 national records.
He was preparing for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics at a training camp in the US when he passed away.
“At his peak, Kenneth was arguably, pound for pound, one of the best short-course swimmers in the world. His power at the start and skills across all four strokes were difficult to match,” a statement by Swimming NSW said.
“Everyone who ever met Kenneth will have fond memories of the time they spent with him and he will be mourned across the swimming community worldwide. We will miss you, Kenny.”
A much-loved figure in the swimming community for his rare humility and kindness, tributes have flowed in from all corners of the world including Chinese Olympic champion Sun Yang and close friend James Magnusson:
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Shocking news to hear of the passing of my competitor but most of all, friend – @kennethkhto We've been racing each other and making teams together since we were 16. He will remain one of the fiercest competitors I've ever stood on the blocks next to. I firmly believe that for a long period he was pound for pound, the best swimmer in the world. RIP little guy, you won't be forgotten.
One of the nicest guys I ever had the pleasure of traveling with. RIP Kenneth, taken too soon. https://t.co/3iCi4H97ZL
— Jessica Hardy (@swimhardy) March 19, 2019
I am in utter shock. One of the nicest athletes with whom I’ve interacted has died. Kenneth To was a kind, passionate and humble person. I am just in shock. R. I. P.
— Loretta Race (@RettaRace) March 19, 2019