Jul 23 2021
ALUMNI SPOTLIGHT: SPECIAL FEATURE
NRCC graduate to compete in 2020 Tokyo Olympics
Ian Ho to swim for Hong Kong Team
It’s not every day a New River Community College alumnus competes in the Olympics. But for Ian Ho, a Blacksburg native and dual citizen of the U.S. and Hong Kong, being in Tokyo for the 2020 games is the next chapter in his story.
Beginning competitive swimming at age six may have been the spark that started the flame, but all the steps that followed clearly marked his path to the Olympic dream.
Swimming in the 2020 Olympics wasn’t always necessarily the goal, because as the ever-humble swimmer said, “I’m a pretty realistic person.” After many years of competitive swimming as a child and teenager, Ho joined the Virginia Tech swim and dive team as a walk-on member in 2015, eventually earning a scholarship position with the team. He went on to set school records in the 50 freestyle and 200 medley relay events. After breaking the Hong Kong record in 2019 in the 50 freestyle race and qualifying for the World Championships, he started to consider that competing in Tokyo was a real possibility.
And representing Hong Kong, where he has been living and training for over a year, is particularly special to Ho.
“I feel incredibly grateful to be able to have the opportunity to compete for Hong Kong,” said Ho.
“Being able to represent my parents’ home country while having the support from all my relatives in Hong Kong it is truly an honor.”
Beyond swimming, education has been important to Ho as well. After just two years of high school, Ho opted to get his GED and start college. He came to NRCC to take classes, where his father, Caisy Ho, is a physics professor.
“New River to me was a fantastic steppingstone to Virginia Tech. The classes offered provided me with a good basis of understanding allowing my transition to Tech to be a smooth one,” said Ho.
After completing an associate degree in engineering at NRCC in 2015, he transferred to Virginia Tech, where he went on to graduate with the highest honors. Ho is now pursuing his graduate studies there and considering a Ph.D. program in mechanical engineering. And if his commitment to his studies matches his commitment to his sport, there is no doubt Ho will achieve his educational goals as well.
Swimming and learning aren’t his only interests, though. His vast skill set ranges from playing beach volleyball and chess to learning the guitar; he even tried out horse vaulting and gymnastics as child. Ho is also an accomplished violinist who has performed with an orchestra at the Kennedy Center.
But right now, swimming is the focus for Ho, as he waits patiently for the Olympics to begin. To prepare for Olympic competition, Ho trains anywhere from four to six hours a day, six days a week, only taking Sundays off for recovery. He is currently training with the Hong Kong national team but previously trained under Sergio Lopez with Pinnacle Racing at Virginia Tech.
“When I started swimming, I never thought I'd ever go to the Olympics. I only really started improving when I was in college at Virginia Tech. It's so surreal to think that I'm now an Olympian. I'm incredibly grateful to all my family and friends who helped me along the way.”
The Olympic Opening Ceremonies began Friday, July 23. Swimming competitions begin July 24, with what’s sure to be a large viewership in the New River Valley cheering on one of their own.
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