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Tilka PALJK
Sport Swimming
NOC Zambia   
GenderWomen
Born18 Feb 1997 in Postojna, SLO
Height1.75 m
 Human Interest 
Further Personal Information
Residence
Pretoria, RSA
Occupation
Athlete
Languages
English
Sport Specific Information
When and where did you begin this sport?
She took up swimming at age five and began competing at age nine.
Why this sport?
She became involved in swimming through an after-school programme.
Club / Team
Vikings Racing Club: Pretoria, RSA
Name of coach
Gerhard Zandberg [club], RSA; Ian Henderson [national]
International Debut
Year
2013
Competing for
Zambia
General Interest
Nicknames
Tilly, Tilk, Princess, Tipee, Incredible Paljk, Pinky, Captain, Aunty Tiwka (tilkapaljk.com, 13 Jul 2018)
Injuries
In 2021 she contracted COVID-19. As a result, she missed training and competitions, before making a full recovery. (nkwazimagazine.com, 15 Jun 2021)

She suffered a back injury in late 2017 that carried over into early 2018. (tilkapaljk.com, 13 Jul 2018)
Sporting philosophy / motto
"Be disciplined, never give up." (Facebook page, 14 Nov 2018)
Awards and honours
In 2021, she was named on Forbes Africa's 30 Under 30 list. (magazinne.uzacoona.com, 01 May 2021)

She was named 2019 Sportswoman of the Year at the Zambia Sports Awards. (lusakatimes.com, 25 Jan 2020; Twitter profile, 25 Jan 2020)

She was named Sportswoman of the Year at the 2018 Zambian Woman of the Year Awards. (themastonline.com, 08 Mar 2018)

She was named the 2014/15 Swimmer of the Year by the Zambia Amateur Swimming Union. (times.co.zm, 29 Mar 2015)
Famous relatives
Her cousin Kumaren Naidu has represented Zambia in swimming and competed at the 2019 World Championships in Gwangju, Republic of Korea. (tilkapaljk.com, 13 Jul 2018; SportsDeskOnline, 12 Mar 2020)
Ambitions
To compete at the 2020 Olympic Games in Toyko. (akomanet.com, 08 Aug 2016)
Other information
FROM SLOVENIA TO ZAMBIA
She chose to represent Zambia instead of her birth country, Slovenia. She first travelled to Zambia to visit her grandmother and fell in love with the country. "That was the beginning of my love affair with Zambia and 19 years on [in 2016], that love has continued to blossom. Many people question my obsession with this African country but I guess love is inexplicable. I am a daughter of the soil, a Lenje, a Zambian." Following the death of her mother in 2014 she moved from Slovenia to South Africa to live with one of her guardians, before earning a scholarship to SPIRE Swimming Academy in Geneva, OH, United States of America in 2017. She moved to South Africa in 2018 due to the lack of swimming facilities in Zambia. (akomanet.com, 08 Aug 2016; zambianobserver.com, 19 Jan 2021; nkwazimagazine.com, 15 Jun 2021)

PERSONAL LOSS
She says that the passing away of her mother due to cancer led to her swimming as much as she could. "I kept going because my mum was diagnosed with cancer and my only outlet, somewhere where I can go and feel like life isn't falling apart, was in the pool. I swam as much as I could. I went to every session that I could just to get my mind off it. It was difficult after she passed away because I realised that I had no other reason to swim anymore but for myself. So I continued because it made me happy and that's how I got better." (sportsgazette.co.uk, 29 Oct 2018)

MENTAL HEALTH
She has struggled with her mental health in the past. After failing to qualify for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, she suffered from depression. In March 2017 she moved to Geneva, OH, United States of America after earning a scholarship to train at the SPIRE Swimming Academy, but struggled to adapt to the training and diet. "It took a bit of a toll on me and I started seeing a psychologist, and she was really great and she really just helped me get through the tough time I was having. I've overcome mental health issues with the help of a lot of people, medication and medical professionals. I have seen psychologists, psychiatrists and I have the support of my family, and I'm grateful that I have a support system that for the most part understands." (zambianobserver.com, 19 Jan 2021; nkwazimagazine.com, 15 Jun 2021)

 Competition Highlights
Olympic Games
Rank Year Venue Event Result
52 2021 Tokyo, JPN 50m Freestyle 27.34
World Championships
Rank Year Venue Event Result
Heats 2019 Gwangju, KOR 50m Breaststroke 32.37
Heats 2019 Gwangju, KOR 100m Breaststroke 1:15.02
Heats 2017 Budapest, HUN 100m Breaststroke 1:12.65
Heats 2017 Budapest, HUN 50m Breaststroke 32.72
Heats 2015 Kazan, RUS 200m Breaststroke 2:55.98
Heats 2015 Kazan, RUS 100m Breaststroke 1:17.13
Heats 2015 Kazan, RUS 4 x 100m Medley Relay 4:14.40
Heats 2013 Barcelona, ESP 50m Breaststroke 34.28
Heats 2013 Barcelona, ESP 50m Freestyle 29.05
World Championships Short Course
Rank Year Venue Event Result
Heats 2018 Hangzhou, CHN 50m Breaststroke 31.84
Heats 2018 Hangzhou, CHN 100m Breaststroke 1:11.22
Heats 2016 Windsor, ON, CAN 50m Breaststroke 32.29
Heats 2016 Windsor, ON, CAN 100m Breaststroke 1:11.48
80 2016 Windsor, ON, CAN 100m Freestyle 58.67 
64 2016 Windsor, ON, CAN 50m Freestyle 26.89 
Heats 2016 Windsor, ON, CAN 4 x 50m Medley Relay 1:50.01
African Championships
Rank Year Venue Event Result
2 2018 Algiers, ALG 50m Breaststroke 32.15
4 2018 Algiers, ALG 100m Breaststroke 1:13.41