CHENNAI: The story of Lakshay Krishna Kumar is one of determination and triumph against all odds. For the 11-year-old with autism, from Thoraipakkam in Chennai, has just made it to the Asia Book of Records with his feats in the swimming pool. On April 30, Lakshay, with unyielding focus and an indomitable spirit, fearlessly plunged into the waters, swimming a 15-km stretch from Neelankarai to the iconic Kannagi statue at Marina Beach. And this feat was accomplished in 3 hours and 18 minutes.
Lakshay was age three when his parents figured out there was something unusual about him. “When we consulted a paediatrician in 2015, Lakshay was described as having hyperactive behaviour with speech delay. Seeking to understand how best to channel his energy, we sought guidance from child pathologists, occupational therapists and various other related experts,” said Krishna Kumar, Lakshay’s father.
Around the same time, they spotted his special gifts. “We discovered Lakshay’s affinity for swimming during a family vacation, when we witnessed his enthusiasm at the swimming pool,” his father said. His parents decided to enrol him in swimming classes. Under the tutelage of coach Sathish Sivakumar from the Yadhavi Sports Academy for Special Needs in Chennai, Lakshay’s talent found expression. With unwavering dedication, Sathish and his team of twelve special coaches nurtured Lakshay’s abilities, focusing on refining his swimming strokes and techniques. From mastering head-down strokes to perfecting hand movements and breast rubs, Lakshay’s relentless efforts began to reap remarkable rewards.
His first outing at the Kochi Swimathon witnessed Lakshay complete a staggering 2-km distance in less than one hour and 40 minutes, setting an impressive record. “It was his first foray into open water competition, and he covered a distance of 2 km in one hour and forty minutes, setting an impressive record,” recalls Aishwarya, his mother. Fuelled by his achievements, Lakshay embarked on even greater challenges, conquering a 5-km swim in Pune in October 2022, completing it in 3 hours and 33 minutes. Returning to the Kochi Swimathon this year, Lakshay showcased his ever-improving timing, finishing the 5-km distance in just 2 hours and 40 minutes, leaving spectators in awe.
But all these accomplishments, it turned out, were merely laying the foundation for something else. Lakshay’s parents envisioned him undertaking a 15-km open-water swim. Their faith in his exceptional endurance was fortified during practice sessions in the sea and lake, where Lakshay demonstrated his remarkable ability to swim for three to four hours without a break. With pride and admiration, Coach Sathish and his team recount how Lakshay fearlessly swam up to 12 km continuously during these rigorous sessions.
Encouraged by his coach, the family embarked on a mission to gain recognition for Lakshay’s remarkable accomplishments. Approaching the esteemed Asia Book of Records, their hopes were vindicated when they received the long-awaited news of Lakshay securing a spot in their annals.
And his talents do not end there. Despite the challenges he faces when communicating verbally, his musical prowess is no less remarkable. Known to leave audiences spellbound with his rendition of Tamil Thai Vazhthu, Lakshay is also learning to play the piano under the guidance of a dedicated trainer.
Looking ahead, Lakshay’s parents wholeheartedly believe that in every child, especially those on the autism spectrum, lie talents waiting to be tapped. Lakshay’s mother advises parents to embrace their child’s world, to discover and nurture their unique talents.
“Rather than impose our expectations on the child and exerting undue pressure, try to understand their strengths and nurture them. You’ll soon see them soar to incredible heights,” she reminds us.