A Training Ground for Olympic Swimmers

【Interview with Michael Fasching, Head Coach of Harry Wright International】

Since its establishment in 1975, Harry Wright International has been more than a swim school that provides the highest quality of aquatic experience to students from the beginner to competitive swimming levels. With their highly successful competitive swimming program, they have trained 15 Olympic swimmers so far. Michael Fasching, current Head Coach at Harry Wright International, has trained five Olympic swimmers including Siobhan Haughey, Geoffrey Cheah and Hannah Wilson. Having been selected as a Team Coach for the Olympic Games Rio 2016, Michael is a very experienced swim coach who has led the Hong Kong National Swim Team as well as the Harry Wright International team to numerous international swimming competitions such as the Olympic Games, Youth Olympic Games, Asian Games and The World Championships.

As a former competitive swimmer, Michael himself represented Germany in many international competitions. “I didn’t attend any swim lessons when I was young. I learned swimming by myself when I was about 7 or 8 years old. My journey as a competitive swimmer began at the age of 12. I’ve represented Germany in international competitions on Age Group and Open Level racing against other countries.” After retiring from competitive swimming at the age of 19, Michael started to take a strong interest in helping the swim club he had been training and swimming with by conducting swimming lessons for beginners. He secured his  coaching license and further completed a higher level of coaching at the club. In 1988, Michael came to Hong Kong and got the chance to meet with June Wright, one of the founders of Harry Wright International, at a swim competition. He then decided to join Harry Wright International in October 1989.

Since joining Harry Wright International, Michael has trained many exceptional swimmers who progressed to represent their country at international competitions. “As a swim coach, I’m very proud to lead our swimmers to many victorious swim competitions, winning numerous medals and championships. Some of the memorable ones include Siobhan’s, Geoffrey’s and Hannah’s success at winning medals at the Junior World Championships, Youth Olympic Games and the Asian Games. It’s also my honor to be selected by the HKSCA (Hong Kong Swimming Coaches Association) as Coach of the Year three times in 2015, 2013 and 2006.” In addition to winning swim competitions, Michael is also very proud that all of the medalists had been training with him for a long time. “Siobhan, Geoffrey and Hannah had been training with me from a really young age until they left Hong Kong for university. This is how we built our very close relationship,” says Michael.

The Harry Wright International swim program consists of three categories - Infant Aquatics, Learn To Swim and Competitive Program. Infant Aquatics caters for infants as young as 4 months old, and parents are required to accompany their child in the pool. . Instructors teach parents how to introduce their babies to the aquatic environment so that they will be more confident in the water. The Infant Aquatics program offers babies an early introduction to water which encourages their physical, cognitive and emotional development.

Learn To Swim is a progressive program that teaches children as young as 3 years old who are able to swim without their parents in the water with them. Students are divided into levels based on their abilities and get the opportunity to proceed to a higher level if they meet the necessary  tasks. The program starts with basic freestyle and backstroke skills and later students are introduced to the more complex breaststroke and butterfly techniques as well as an introduction to diving. Michael points out “Our Learn To Swim program requires students to attend swim lessons once to twice per week. Students who have gone through all levels of our Learn To Swim program should have developed a good technical foundation. They would then have the opportunity to be recruited by our instructors to join our competitive squads.”

Harry Wright International competitive squads recruit not only swimmers from their Learn To Swim program, but also swimmers from other organizations. “At the entry level of our Competitive program, swimmers are required to commit to a minimum of two one-hour training sessions a week. For multi levels of the squad team, we encourage swimmers to attend more frequent and longer sessions,” says Michael. Harry Wright’s competitive squads are not lacking in opportunities to compete, as they organize their own swimming competitions for multiple levels. They have the Harry Wright Learn to Swim Meets for entry levels and the Sprint Meets for the slightly more advanced levels. In addition, June and Captain Wright, the Founders of Harry Wright International, established The Mantas Swimming Club, which hosts international competitions and also an international age group meets once a year in Hong Kong.

Talking about the swim culture in Hong Kong, Michael agrees that swimming is a very popular sport for children in Hong Kong up to primary school age. He points out that older students tend to be more focused on academic development. “It’s very common to see a large drop off in swim training lessons at the age of 16 to 18 as students have to study for the DSE or IB examinations. In my opinion, it is possible to have both academic career and sport participation on a highly competitive level. When I was 16, my parents asked me to stop swim training and competitions as my academic performance was not very good. I pleaded with my parents to continue supporting me and promised to work harder on my academic development because I was so in love with the sport that I couldn’t imagine a life without swimming,” says Michael. He advises children to develop a love for the sport if they want to be a successful swimmer. “Apart from a strong basis of technical skills, the love for swimming is significant. You really have to like what you do on a daily basis if you want to have a long term career. A fantastic support network is also necessary. Swimmers need to have strong support from parents as well as coaches.”

“I’ve followed the development of sports in Hong Kong for almost 30 years. I believe that the Hong Kong Government together with the Hong Kong Jockey Club have increased their funding of sports significantly over the years,” says Michael. However, he hopes people will consider thinking more out of the box and strive to change the culture where an athletic career can be just as acceptable and rewarding as an academic career in society. He believes building more sports facilities in each district and hosting more mega sports event will help in the development of sports in Hong Kong and lead to people embracing the value and benefits of sports.

Harry Wright International is  listed on whizpa.com as a swimming provider in Hong Kong. Michael believes word of mouth was the main marketing tool the company has relied on since it was founded. “The Wright family’s excellent reputation has been spread through word of mouth primarily. I do think it is a great way to let more people know more about Harry Wright International and understand our methodology to develop exceptional swimmers,” says Michael.


Harry Wright International Summer Term (March to June 2018) is now open for enrollment: click here for online enrollment

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