UPCLOSE WITH NAIDU; The media-shy Olympics-bound swimmer
Updated: Jun 9
Compared to other Zambian athletes, Kumeran Naidu is not a media person as much and that can somehow explain why little is heard about him despite being a key figure of the national swimmer team and representing the country at major international competitions.
Naidu has however been a decently upcoming and promising swimmer in the last eight years with the ability to perform at the big stage and his consideration for the Olympic Games on universality basis alongside Tilka Paljk is perhaps testament to that.
Since 2015, Naidu has represented Zambia at both the senior and junior events of the World Championship as well as the Commonwealth Games.
In fact, he reached the semi-finals of the Junior Commonwealth Games at the age of 18 in Samoa; something he considers one of his biggest career achievements even to this day.
“I went to Youth World Championships and then Junior Commonwealth, and there I made semi-final and that was amazing for me,” he told this writer in an interview.
On the continent, he was part of the team that went to the All Africa Games in August, 2019 in Morocco and recorded one of his best career times; 26.45 seconds in 50 metres freestyle at the age of 21.
He had also appeared at the African Junior Swimming Championships which were held in Zambia in 2013, and recently participated the African Swimming Confederation (CANA) Zone IV Swimming Championships in 2018 and 2020.
Now aged 23 and at a level where he is a top national athlete, Naidu is staring at his next major event and arguably the biggest of his profession career; the Olympics!
When asked what this milestone meant to him, he was not shy to reveal how difficult it was to believe when the news of his selection reached him, adding that he was yet to digest the achievement.
“To be honest am nervous, maybe when I get to South Africa that’s when it will hit me,” he said in between giggles.
This will be his first appearance there and though fully aware that getting a medal may not be an easy target, he still wants to do well for the country.
“Honestly, I want to do great, my goal is to try and reach for the Zambian record, a medal is pretty out of picture, let’s be realistic, but the Zambian record is in sight,” said Naidu.
(The record in reference was set by Zambian swimmer Alexandros Axiotis in 2016 at the South African Swimming Championships when he clocked 1.05.93s in 100m breaststroke.)
Although Naidu has collected countless medals from regional competitions for the country, they seem to have eluded him at both continental and global events.
However, Naidu does not seem to be the type of athlete that loses hope of ever achieving something and believes such may only be a matter of time.
“It’s just to keep chasing for it, every failure is one step closer to success, that’s what I think. If someone tells you ‘you have failed’ that’s just 20 failures from getting a medal, would you quit?”
Naidu revealed that he draws motivation from his two coaches, Ian Stephenson; his coach in Zambia, and former South African Olympics swimmer Gerhard Zandberg.
"At 23, Naidu is staring at his next major event and arguably the biggest of his profession career; the Olympics!"
What underlines his qualities is the fact that he can compete in freestyle, backstroke, breaststroke and butterfly categories.
Beyond his participation at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, Naidu also revealed that he looking forward to taking part in the prestigious Short Course Swimming Championship in Abu Dhabi which comes later this year in December.
Away from his career as an athlete, Naidu, born August 23, 1997, is the first born in a family only him and his sister.
Having a family history of rally driving, Naidu also took part in the sport from 2013 at the age of 16 until 2018 when he decided to concentrate on his swimming career.
He is also a graduate from Tswane University of Technology and Damelin College both from South Africa where he studied Industrial Design and Business Marketing.