Zambia’s best swimmer, Tilka Paljk speaks out

Tilka Paljk
Tilka Paljk

Tilka Paljk (TP), Swimmer for the year 2014-15 opens up to LusakaVoice (LV) about her career and how she turned to swimming whilst grieving loss of her mother.

 L.V How does it feel being crowned Swimmer of the year 2014-15?

T.P I’m really honored, I didn’t expect it because I haven’t raced in Zambia this season but I have represented the country. I was very happy when I the heard news.

L.V What is the secret behind your success?

T.P Following my mum’s death I didn’t have a way to deal with my anger and I found that when I swam I felt better. After I had moved to South Africa to train, it was very hard for me to fit in. However, every day I looked forward to swimming, pushing myself in the water or in the gym. That way I felt better and less angry. I always kept in mind that my mum would be happy with me training this hard and without me knowing I started to succeed. I swam level 3 nationals in Port Elizabeth about 2 weeks ago and represented Zambia. I won a gold in my 50 meter breast stroke. I thank my mum for pushing me even if she isn’t here I still know that she would want me to succeed and that is why I am improving.


L.V What opportunities have been opened for you being a swimmer?

T.P Basically since I’ve moved here (South Africa), I have had a lot of exposure. A lot of coaches have noticed my talent and are keen on helping me improve in anyway. I also get to represent my country and I don’t think that you  I can get more joy from anything else than that.

 L.V What is your favorite stroke and fastest time in the stroke and length?

T.P I specialize in breaststroke. My time is a 33.58 but my fastest is 50 freestyle and I go 27.73 in seconds.


L.V What are some of the challenges you face as a swimmer, particularly being a woman?

T.P Swimming isn’t a gender ruling sport, the boy swim with the boys and girls swim with the girls. We don’t really have gender discrimination. The biggest challenge faced by every other swimmer in Zambia as a whole is lack of support and funding from the government. Swimming, like any other sport requires help from the government. I would appreciate if the government would recognize our talent and acknowledge the fact that we represent Zambia all over the world. We might not be winning now, but we will win one day and it would be nice to appreciate government for its support.

L.V What should government do to nurture the already existing talent and potential swimmers in the country?

 T.P The government should build more swimming facilities and supply the country with more qualified coaches.

L.V What has been the highest achievement in your career so far?

T.P Making it in the commonwealth team was one of the greatest experiences of my swimming career

L.V Who inspires you?

T.P Ruan Rass, he swims for my club, and he has inspired me to keep pushing even when times get tough. He had cancer and my mum died from it. He survived and knowing that, makes me look up

L.V What are your future plans, where do you see yourself in 5years?

T.P I see myself preparing for 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.

L.V What life lessons can one learn through sport, particularly swimming?

T.P I would like, not only swimmers but people in general to learn that even when you think your world has ended and you can’t go any further, you have to find a way in which you can make tomorrow be a better day. It’s easy for me to say “never give up” but harder to do. Swimming has taught me that I can get through anything whether it is swimming in an ice cold pool or having to do a set 3 time because you messed up the first 2 times. It has shown me that only the hardest things in life can make you a strong person

L.V Do you have plans of relocating to Zambia anytime?

I love Zambia and it will always be my home. I do visit Zambia during the holidays.

L.V Any  final thoughts you would want to share?

T.P To everyone who will read this, I’d just like to say, never give up. If you think that you have the worst life ever, keep in mind that I’ve been through worse. This has taught me to be strong and to help people who are suffering.