Star swimmer training in Gainesville dies at 26

Kenneth To was in Florida for 3-month training camp at University of Florida

Kenneth To, a swimmer who won a silver medal for Australia at the 2013 world championships, has died in Gainesville, where he was training for the 2020 Olympics. He was 26.

To was in Florida for a three-month training camp with the Gator Swim Club at the University of Florida.

According to the Gator Swim Club, To died Monday evening shortly after starting practice. The club sent the following statement: 

It is with much sorrow that we report that one of our professional swimmers, 26-year-old Kenneth To, passed away last night shorty after beginning practice. He was found unconscious in the locker room and was transported to Shands Hospital and declared deceased shortly thereafter. The exact cause of death is unknown at this time. 

"Kenneth was a very passionate and driven young man with a great attitude toward life and swimming. He was loved and respected by his teammates and friends and he will be greatly missed by all who knew him. 

"Gator Swim Club, our coaching staff, and our members are deeply shocked and saddened and offer Kenneth’s family our sincerest condolences. Lastly, we wish to respect his family’s privacy during this difficult time and will have no further comment."

The cause of death was not immediately clear. A UF Police Department spokesperson told News4Jax the medical examiner completed an autopsy Tuesday morning, but no preliminary findings have been released. 

Born in Hong Kong, To's family moved to Australia when he was young. He transferred his nationality in 2016 to swim for Hong Kong and was training for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

"(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 in a statement. "Kenneth was known as a truly exceptional person, warm, funny and kind."

To won six medals for Australia at the 2010 Youth Olympics in Singapore, including gold in the 400-meter medley. At the 2013 worlds in Barcelona, To was part of Australia's silver medal-winning 400 medley relay squad.

In December he competed at the world short-course championships in China and placed sixth in the 100-meter medley -- his first individual final at a major championship in six years, he wrote on Twitter.

World swimming body FINA said it learned of To's death "with immense sadness."

"Owner of many Hong Kong national swimming records, Kenneth To was a reference and example for the youth in the territory," the Switzerland-based governing body said.

Tributes poured in on social media, including from Australian swimmer and Olympic medalist James Magnussen who posted on Facebook, in part, “Shocking news to hear of the passing of my competitor but most of all, friend - Kenneth To."

Shocking news to hear of the passing of my competitor but most of all, friend - Kenneth To. We've been racing each other...

Posted by James Magnussen Official on Tuesday, March 19, 2019

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