Cheah hopes to be an inspiration for future swimmers


Stanford grad Geoff Cheah wants to set an example for the youth of Hong Kong. As one of the few professionals on the Chinese island, he hopes to inspire others to take swimming a little more seriously.

Cheah, who finished seventh in the 100 back in the Arena Grand Prix at Santa Clara on Sunday, was one of several Cardinal grads, current swimmers and incoming freshmen to participate on the final day of the four-day event at the George F. Haines International Swim Center.

Stanford grad Bobby Bollier was second in the 200-meter fly in 1:58.65, Eugene Godsoe finished third in the 100 back with a time of 55.41, and fellow Cardinal grad B.J. Johnson was eighth in the 100 breast in 1:03.25.

Cardinal sophomore Max Williamson competed in the final of the 200 IM while Sacred Heart Prep grad and Cardinal junior Tom Kremer was eighth in the 200 fly in 2:03.26.

Stanford junior Sarah Haase qualified for the final of the women's 100 breast, but did not swim.

Karlee Bispo of Palo Alto Stanford Aquatics (PASA) was fourth in the women's 200 IM in 2:16.45.

Future Stanford teammates and current PASA buddies Curtis Ogren and Andrew Liang helped PASA finish eighth in the men's 400 medley relay.

"I'm definitely looking forward to being with a great group of young guys from across the country," Ogren said. "It should be one of the best incoming classes."

Bispo, Marie-Pierre Delisle, Heidi Katter from Castilleja and Gunn's Jennifer Campbell helped the PASA women's 400 medley relay finish fourth.

Cheah, a three-time All-American and a Pac-12 champion while at Stanford, holds five Hong Kong swimming records and hopes to carry the HK flag in the next Olympics.

(Click here for a story on Cheah's record-setting performance.)

"I do have a vision that I can introduce the idea of putting on camps in Hong Kong," Cheah said. "With a population eight million, we do have talent if they took it serious. We could put together a good team."

There are swimming programs in the Hong Kong schools, with some heated rivalries, though parents use the sport as a way for their kids to gain admittance to prestigious schools.

Cheah, born in London and raised in Hong Kong before attending Stanford, said it is very important for him to represent his hometown.

"I want to give the kids a vision," Cheah said. "Hopefully I can inspire them as one of the few professional athletes in Hong Kong."

Cheah contacted Stanford as a 16-year-old and attended a Cardinal swimming camp the following summer.

"I had sent them videos and I wanted them to see me in person," Cheah said. "I also looked at Cal and Northwestern."

Cheah also credits Stanford grad and Austrian Olympian Markus Rogan for much of his development the past year.

"For the last year and a half he's been like a mentor to me," he said. "A lot of my good results are because of him."

While most American swimmers are looking forward to the Phillips 66 National Championships in Irvine in August, Cheah has his sights set on the Asian Games, to be held in September in Incheon, South Korea.

Cheah finished eighth in the 200 back at the 2006 Asian Games in Qatar. He just missed qualifying in two other events. He'll compete in the freestyle and butterfly.

"I just want to keep making gains in practice every week," he said. "I'd like to win a medal this year."

Bispo, a member of the U.S. national team last year, wasn't ready to give up swimming following an All-American career at Texas.

Born and raised in Modesto, she looked for a program in California. She moved to Palo Alto and began training with Stanford and then PASA.

"I was looking for a place to further my swimming career," Bispo said. "Tony (Batis) seemed like a good fit for me and there was a great group at Stanford, where I also worked with (Stanford coaches) Ted (Knapp) and Scott (Armstrong). I was the only non-Stanford grad and was happy to get the chance to train."

Bispo helped Team USA win a gold medal at last year's FINA World Championships, swimming the third leg of the 800 free relay that also included Katie Ledecky, Shannon Vreeland and Missy Franklin.

Bispo also swam at the 2012 Olympic trials in Omaha, finishing ninth in the 100 free, one place out of the final.

Bispo currently teaches recreation swim classes at Stanford and is looking to apply for medical school, though school will have to wait as she looks ahead to another try at the Olympics.

"I am so grateful I can still pursue my dream," Bispo said. "It's working out well."

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