Yvette Kong (Man-Yi), 江忞懿
Sport: Women's swimming (100 Breast, 200 Breast, 4x100 medley relay)
Country: Hong Kong
Birthday: January 18th, 1993 (age 23)
Hometown: Born in Toronto, Canada; grew up in Hong Kong; graduated high school in Ojai, California
Cal affiliation: California Golden Bears alum (Cognitive Science '15)
Years at Cal: 2011-2015
Olympic appearances: 2016 Rio will be Yvette's 1st Olympic; she was expected to qualify for both 2008 Beijing and 2012 London but fell just short (by 0.01 second in 2012)
During her time in Berkeley, Yvette Kong was a member of two Cal women's swimming and diving NCAA team champions in 2012 and 2015, her freshman and senior seasons. She competed in the 2012 NCAA championships but didn't make the 2015 one.
From her SwimSwam profile:
As a freshman Kong competed at the NCAA Championships where she finished 19th in the 100 breaststroke and 46th in the 200 breaststroke.
Kong followed up a stellar freshman season by placing 16th in the 100 breaststroke at the Pac 12 Championships. She also competed in the 200 breaststroke and IM finishing 25th and 27th.
In her junior season Kong was a member of the 200 medley relay at the Pac 12 Championships, which placed second. She also came in second in the ‘B' final of the 100 breaststroke as well 7th in the ‘B' final of the 200 breaststroke.
She started the senior season off by making the all time top-10 list in Cal's 100 and 200 breaststroke events. She competed at the Pac 12 Championships swimming times in the 100 and 200 breaststroke that would've made a consolation final.
While her Cal achievements are probably not what Yvette Kong had in mind when she started, as she only made one NCAA championships, recent articles on her story has explained why (more on that below).
Shortly after Yvette started to swim competitively at 10, she started to break Hong Kong records at age 13. At age 16 in 2009, she ranked in the top 25 in the world; unfortunately for Yvette, she has struggled to repeat those time...until very recently.
Again from her Swim Swam profile:
During the 2009-2010 short-course meter season Kong was ranked 22nd in the world. As of Sept. 14, 2011 she held every Hong Kong women's long-course and short-course record in the breaststroke events. In addition she holds 13 Hong Kong long and short course records in total.
At the Asian Swimming Championships in 2014 Kong brought home a silver in a relay as well as two bronze medals. At last year's third Asian Indoor Games in Vietnam, she won five golds and one silver medal. She was a member of the Youth Olympic Team that traveled to the Youth Olympic Games in Singapore. In 2010 she was awareded the Zespri Outstanding Junior Athlete Award.
Yvette qualified for the Rio games with the following swim (although she had already posted B time a month earlier at a different meet):
More Yvette and her Rio outlook:
The first time Olympian has had a circuitous route to the Olympic games. Showing great talent at a very young age, Yvette Kong had to overcome some mental issues (with the help of Cal women's swimming head coach Terri McKeaver) to finally fulfill her athletic dream in 2016.
Since graduating from Cal in 2015, Yvette has been training at the University of Edinburgh. She will swim individually in the 100 Breast, 200 Breast, and with fellow Calympians Camille Cheng and Stephanie Au in the 4x100 medley relay.
Can't be prouder of Team Hong Kong! Our combined effort of 4'03.10 in the 4x100M medley relay world ranks 15th now - possibly a historical relay qualification! Here's a fun picture of our post-race celebration. More to come! 很高興！我們香港隊的女子四乘一百米混合泳接力以4分03秒10擠身世界第十五名，有望歷史性地出戰里約奧運會。賽後當然要影一幅搞笑開心相留念啦！希望好消息停不了 還有，恭喜歐鎧淳又刷新香港紀錄！屢創佳績
The South China Morning Post has a great story about Yvette Kong's perseverance over depression to make it to Rio.
Kong was seen from a young age as one of Hong Kong's most promising swimmers, but at 23 is only now living up to her potential, qualifying for her first Olympics after a battle with depression that at one point saw her quit the sport.
She went into a spiral of panic and self-sabotage after failing to live up to expectations at the 2010 Youth Olympics and Asian Games and missing qualification for the London Olympics (by a mere 0.1 seconds).
A scholarship athlete at Berkeley University, at one point the mental anguish was so great she ran away from qualification meetings minutes before she was due to get in the pool.
Only after Teri McKeever, Berkeley's hugely experienced swim coach, urged her to seek professional help, did Kong start to get to the root of her issues.
Yvette Kong actually quit swimming for about 3 months in 2013, but she returned to the pool to give it another go. More from that story,
Kong was ranked second in the world in her discipline in the rankings compiled by American colleges as they recruit scholarship talents: more pressure she found impossible to live up to. Indeed, she only qualified for the NCAAs, American university sport's top competition, in her first year at Berkeley.
She's hugely grateful to McKeever for urging her to seek help. Given the stigma that still exists in Hong Kong - and in sport in general to be fair - about mental health issues, it seems doubtful she would have made the move by herself.
"Unfortunately, some of Yvette's challenges are more common than you would think," said McKeever, who has coached at Berkeley since 1992. "Especially with the elite level student athletes I work with, [because of their] strong desire to be successful in everything they do."
The happy ending is that Yvette has found that balance between high expectation and reality to make it to her first Olympic games. Yes, her Cal career was probably not as great as she would have liked, but that is all in the past. Should she continue to maintain a healthy mental mindset, I am certain that she can triumph away from the pool as well. For her to be able to openly talk about her battle with depression, she has hopefully inspired others who need that help to seek it.
One last cool thing to conclude this profile. From her Instagram, Yvette had dreamed about being a Golden Bears since she was little.
Congratulations to Yvette Kong for finally making it to the Olympics. It is great that she was able to overcome her mental issues to fulfill her dreams. While it would be tough fro her to make the finals of either 100 Breast nor 200 Breast, maybe the Hong Kong quartet can make it to the 4x100 medley relay final.
Good luck to Yvette in Rio and GO BEARS!