Alex Fong Lik-sun, the former Olympian and Canto-pop star, swam clockwise around Hong Kong Island on Tuesday, setting an unofficial record for the 45km journey at 10 hours, 43 minutes and six seconds.
Fong, who represented Hong Kong in the 2000 Sydney Olympics, used the event to raise more than HK$7 million (S$1.21 million) for A Drop of Life, a local charity that brings clean drinking water to impoverished communities in Cambodia, China and Nepal. The 39-year-old started and finished in Sandy Bay, coping with temperatures close to 30 degrees Celsius.
Fong said he felt better than expected during the swim because he had endured a number of obstacles while training, including dehydration, headaches and sea sickness.
At a press conference after the event, he spoke of massive waves near Shek O during one point of Tuesday's trek.
"I truly understood what it means to finish something," Fong said. "Lots of people were saying, the older you get, the harder it is to accomplish something, especially as I am in my late thirties. But I can say as a person who is at the end of his thirties, today was the most successful day of my life."
Fong, nicknamed "Little Flying Fish," said he got the idea from watching Simon Holliday, who swam the same route for charity in 2017, with a time of 12 hours and 32 minutes. A year later, Edie Hu swam the route in 12 hours and 37 minutes.
Fong still holds Hong Kong records in the 200m backstroke (2:05.47) and 400m individual medley (4:29.02), times he clocked during the Sydney Olympics.
He has also tried his hand at television, acting and singing. He admitted to giving up swimming for a long time after his Olympic appearance.
"I didn't have a goal and I knew that I will never be a better swimmer than I was back then," he said. "I hadn't swam more than say 400 metres at a resort in close to 20 years. So the first time I got into the pool and did 800 metres, my arms were so sore I couldn't lift them any more."
Fong logged more than 400 hours of training since he started training for the island loop last June.
He completed the entire journey on Tuesday without touching a boat or being aided in any way other than being supplied with food and water.
Last year, Fong opened the Hong Kong Swimming Academy, which teaches children aquatic skills at various local schools.
This article was first published in South China Morning Post.