Otto Aquatics

Half a century of proud traditions.....

In 1964, a new era in community based aquatics was being ushered in. At the Balkumar Singh Swimming pool, in the community of Asherville, Durban (South Africa), a group of swimmers and administrators, decided it was time to start a new club.

Few can now recollect why the name of "Otto" was chosen, but it was shortly to become a household name in the sporting fraternity in Asherville, and in the aquatic fraternity nationally. By the mid sixties, a few years after its launch, Otto had grown into one of the strongest clubs in Natal. Names such as Param Naidoo (the current Natal coach); the Kisten family and the Jithoo family became synonymous with both Otto and swimming in Natal. By the late sixties and early seventies, Otto had grown into the strongest club in the country. Under the chairpersonships of Morgan Naidoo, Dhama Nair, under the guidance of Vasi Nair, groomed by coaches such as Param Naidoo, the club formed the backbone of swimming in the province and had come to symbolise non racial swimming in South Africa.

Natal, with Otto swimmers making up in excess of 80% of every squad, conquered all comers at every National Championships from 1966 to 1981 (except 1967 and 1980). The club was filled to capacity with swimmers that would have made most international teams proud. Seelan Nair and sister Dhivia, cousin Shireen, the Vayej brothers, Ismail and Ahmedy, Anita and brother Deon Vlotman, Ansari Adam, Venitha Jithoo, Alimarge Cavernelis, Annisvery and brother Cyril Kisten, Leeboy Bisset, Virend Singh, Saras Moodley, and a forever list of many others made the club great.

A cursory look at the National Championships log tables, clearly show that Otto, as a club could have taken on any province in the country and still come out tops:



NATAL (1st): 334 (296 + 38 (team events)); WESTERN CAPE (2nd): 137

OTTO: 238 (excluding team events)


NATAL (1st): 437 (361 + 76 (team events)); GRIQUALAND (2nd): 164

OTTO: 259 (excluding team events)

But even the best have to someday bow out, especially if it fails to plan for the future. Such was Otto's fate. Param Naidoo, the coach moved out of Durban. Most of the senior swimmers had departed to their tertiary studies and new jobs. The club, by not building a stable nursery had virtually sealed its fate - the dimming of a shining star was in sight. Sadly too the slow death of this proud club received no support from the then ASAN administration, whose interests in swimming were dubious at best. All internal attempts to curb this sad turn of events proved futile. By the 1982/3 season Otto had ceased to exist.4

Our History......continues.....

Fortunately, 1985 saw a revival of swimming in the province as a whole.

Encouraged by this new confidence in ASAN, by January 1986, the old Otto loyalty brought together a band of ex-Otto swimmers, Shireen Nair, Saras Moodley and Rajen Naidoo, who together with Derrick Iyaloo (Asherville Pool superintendent) set about re-establishing the old Otto. In March of the same year, the club was launched with Siva Chetty as the new chairperson. With this core coaches, a new administration was ushered into office. Sylvia Vasar as secretary and Sunny Marimuthu as treasurer, and no more than seven swimmers Otto started on the long and rocky road to the top. The club experienced a massive membership boost in 1987/8 season. In the 1988 National Championships in Durban, Thanesh Marimuthu and Amitha Ramlall became the first new Otto swimmers to win provincial honours. It has been a long haul from there....

The darkest hour of our new club came a day after celebrating our "fifth" birthday. On 10 March 1991, fate claimed the life of our chairperson, Siva Chetty. The lifeblood, the driving force of the new Otto dealt a crushing blow to the club. It took a while for the club to recover from this blow, but in the true Otto spirit, a testimony to the committment of its membership, the club turned tragedy to triumph. It was those solid foundations laid down by Siva in the five years with the club that has led us to the successes we have today. In recollecting this history, we dedicate our current successes to this great hero of Otto. 

The dominant club of the seventies had arrived once again, only the time had changed, it was now the nineties. This was a successful decade - one of the most successful seasons since the seventies, scooping all honours in the Natal Championships and Inter-club league and winning the National Inter-Club Age group League since 1993. Our swimmers set several Natal records, and form a large percentage of the KwaZulu-Natal team. Five swimmers won National colours at 1995 National Championships. In addition, this proud club does more than just produce great swimmers. We have over the years provided some of the leading officials to the provincial organisation. Names such as Charlie Bassa, who with great determination managed to salvage the financial situation of the parent body, Sunny Marimuthu, the omnipresent Chief Timekeeper are just a few that have provided leadership to the provincial unit. But then Otto has always produced more than its fair share of administrators - remember Morgan Naidoo, Vasi Nair, Dhama Nair and Adam Abdool - men who had given so much to non-racial swimming? Glance through their membership cards: all proud Otto members. 

As the club entered the new century, it continued its slow, but methodical rise back to its former glory. In the 2000/1 season, 7 Otto swimmers were selected to the Level 1 Nationals, 1 to Level 2, and Karuna Marimuthu making it to the Junior Age Group Nationals (Level 4) – a significant achievement for a black swimmer. These numbers have been steadily increasing over the years, and Otto is now regularly represented at all the national championships, except Senior Nationals. Some names that have come up in lights include Kirsten Leigh Sankar, the not only the first Otto finalist at the Level 2 Nationals, but proudly, also, its first medalist. With the recent selection of Suvir Satyendra into the National Training Centre in Pretoria, participation of Otto swimmers at the most prestigious national tournament is only but a few years away. 

In 2004 Otto celebrated its 40th Anniversary – a remarkable milestone for a community based club. Under the leadership of men and women such as Della Rose Bassa, Lucky Satyendra, Dean Joseph, Cyril Singh the club enjoyed success under changing conditions of competition in the new South Africa. To reach elite levels, greater resources were necessary, and for a community based club, these were not always accessible. Despite this, the club continued to produce swimmers at the higher levels of national swimming 

We have no doubt that we have yet to reach the pinnacle of success that the club enjoyed in the seventies, but with the determination of its swimmers and administrators, we will get there. We hope, that Otto be judged not by just its actions in the water but by its committment to developing the sport in all its manifestations and producing sportspeople of the highest calibre, remembered not just for their swimming prowess but for their dedication to the visions pioneered by those who built up their club and swimming in Natal...... 

Our Programmes Learn-to-Swim During the winter months, from May through to September, our LTS programmes will take place at the SMJ pool, Coached by Khathija Rajah and Zanele Mbambo.

Competitive Swimming The exciting engagement that we have had with Seagulls Swimming Club over the last two seasons continues with some changes. Senior Coach Calvin, who worked with our swimmers at SMJ now has added duties at Seagulls at Lahee Park. This has meant that we needed a new coach at Otto. For the first time in over two years, Otto now has a permanently appointed coach, rather than a shared coach with Seagulls. Wade Dannhauser becomes our officially registered coach. He will be guided by the current senior coaches at Seagulls, Delon and Calvin. Our more advanced Level 2 and Level 3 swimmers will continue their training with appropriate squads at Lahee Park.

Competitive Participation Our competitive swimmers regularly participate in the KwaZulu-Natal Aquatics (KZNA) galas organised through the year. In the last season, our swimmers participated in the major championship events in KZN, including the Premier Championships, Level 1 Championships and the Level 0 Championships.

Schools' Programme We actively promote schools aquatics development at three schools: SM Jhavery, VN Naik School for the Deaf and Orient Primary. Schools wanting to join these programmes are encouraged to make contact with the club to arrange programmes that are appropriate for your school. This year, we plan on having an active schools winter programme during the July holidays. 

Otto’s milestone


Otto’s present young crop of swimmers.

OTTO Swimming club will celebrate its 50th anniversary with a banquet at Enchanted Gardens on Saturday.

The club, which is based at the Balkumar Swimming Pool in Asherville, has a long and proud history of producing champions – both in the pool and at an administration level.

Rajen Naidoo, general secretary of KZN aquatics and a lifelong member of Otto, said among those instrumental in forming the club were Ahmed Randaree (first chairperson of the club), Pat Bandulalla, R Bijou and Prem Mooruth.

“The first provincial representative of Otto, in a team of 11 boys and two girls, was Selva Kisten, who participated in the 1964 nationals. Within a year, Otto’s representation on the provincial team grew significantly. The early successes of those days was undoubtedly due to the dedicated coaching from Otto’s first coach Bob Pather,” said Naidoo.

By the early seventies, Seelan Nair and Anita Vlotman became household names and were selected to represent the national SA Amateur Swimming Federation at a six-week training camp in London.

“Also among the stellar swimmers in the seventies were Virend Singh (club captain), the Vayej brothers – Ismail and Ahmedy – Colin Appu and Dawood Rainier. Ismail Vayej beat the South African record set by white swimmer Paul Blackbeard but his achievement was never recognised because of his colour.”

While the success of the early days was shaped by coach Pather, the latter part of the sixties saw the influence of Sam Ramsamy, bringing his scientific approaches to the sport. Ramsamy is an exco member of FINA (the international swimming body) and an exco member of the International Olympic Committee.

Ramsamy cut his teeth in competitive swimming coaching with Otto in the late sixties and was also the coach for the provincial side at the time.

“The seventies was a dream era for Otto when only one member of the Natal swimming team was not a member of the club. Param Naidoo who was the club’s coach at the time was largely responsible for the success of the club at the time.”

Among the swimmers who made their mark in the 90’s were Terrence Govender, Raqshad Ally, Jacinta Vasar, Chris Pillay and the Bassa brothers – Mikhail and Nahim and siblings Karuna and Velan Marimuthu who dominated the provincial and national scene.

Following the merger between the Amateur Swimming Association of South Africa and Swimming South Africa in 1999, Otto entered the KwaZulu Natal “Development Championships” in 1999/2000 and won most of the medals on offer.

“The turn of the century saw past swimmers taking on careers in coaching, among them Velan Marimuthu, Mikhail Bassa and Nahim Bassa. Velan served as coach for the national team to Maputo, Brazil, Europe, Nigeria and India. Mikhail served as coach for the national squad to Brazil as well.

“One of the stars to emerge in 2003 was Suvir Satyendra who won the club’s first medals at national level in the new era of unified swimming. Satyendra was subsequently selected into the National Training Centre in Pretoria and became the first Otto swimmer to be selected for a South African team. He represented South Africa in 2006 at Western Short Course Championships in Perth, Australia, and the World International Schools Federation (ISF) tournament in Athens, Greece. In 2008 Satyendra was part of the Junior Commonwealth Games held in Pune, India.”

Of the current crop of Otto swimmers, sisters Diyaksha and Dristi Bramdeo, Uveer Jagnath and Jaiyan Moodley are among the stars to shine.