Kenneth To, an accomplished swimming star who won a silver medal for Australia at the 2013 World Championships, has reportedly passed away at the young age of 26. The swimming star died after becoming ill while training in Florida.
As per the Daily Mail, Kenneth also won six medals for Australia at the 2010 Youth Olympics in Singapore, including gold in the 400-meter medley. He was also a key member of Australia's silver medal-winning 400-meter medley relay squad at the 2013 world titles in Barcelona. In 2009 he broke Ian Thorpe's decade-old Australian record in the 200m individual medley.
"(To) felt unwell at a training session and was taken to hospital where sadly, he passed away," the Hong Kong Sports Institute said on Tuesday. "Kenneth was known as a truly warm person, funny and kind." However, the exact cause of his death is still not known.
Kenneth was born in Hong Kong, but moved to Australia with his family when he was two-years-old. He transferred his nationality in 2016 to swim for Hong Kong, and was training ahead of the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo before his untimely death.
Australia's national swimming coach Jacco Verhaeren paid tribute to the champion athlete, describing him as an "exceptional teammate and versatile athlete." He further told Fairfax, "We are all very shocked and saddened by Kenny's passing and wish his family and friends strength at this incredibly difficult time. He was a much-loved team member with a determined spirit and wonderful personality, so he will be missed by all his peers, coaches and staff."
Australian three-time world championship gold medallist James Magnussen even rated Kenneth as one of the best swimmers he had raced as an emerging teenager.
"Shocking news to hear of the passing of my competitor but most of all, my friend," Magnussen wrote on Instagram. "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."
Magnussen concluded saying, "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."