When 15-year-old Yukail Naidoo made his international debut at the 2016 ITTF African Junior Championships in Algiers, it was obvious that the young South African had the skills but he was short of exposure like his counterparts from Nigeria, Egypt, Tunisia and Algeria.

And in 2017, his performance at the national qualifiers in South Africa earned a place in the SA team to the 2017 ITTF African Junior Championships in Tunis. From his performance in Tunis, Yukail Naidoo again showed his stuff and an improvement compared to his maiden outing in 2016.

Despite not making the podium in Tunis, he was touted as another star from the Rainbow nation.

However, the talents and feat of Yukail Naidoo was recognized by the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Sport and Recreation (KZNDSR) as he was named as the Junior Sportsman of the Year by the KwaZulu-Natal Sports Awards.

Being the first time that table tennis will be getting such award, Yukail Naidoo on Friday September 15, 2017, beat Sifiso ‘Alex’ Masima (Canoeing) and Mangoba Madida (cycling) to the Junior Sportsman of the Year at the annual event held at the Chief Albert Luthuli International Convention Centre (ICC) Durban, Kwa Zulu Natal, a coastal South African province,.

According to the organizers of the award, it is meant to recognise and reward the exceptional performances and the great sporting accomplishments of athletes and administrators from the province. They recognize the top achievers in the Province in the sporting landscape with the aim of propelling them to greater heights and to encourage youngsters to work harder to achieve podium results. The hosting of the 2017 Sport Awards followed the successful hosting of the 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016 Awards ceremonies. The award was put together by the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Sport and Recreation (KZNDSR) together with the KwaZulu-Natal Sport Confederation (KZNSC), in a bid to reward KwaZulu Natal citizens for their efforts and achievements on and off the field of play. These are individuals, groups and teams that continue to fly the flag of the province at local and international arena.

An elated described the award as the prized achievements for him.

“I was shocked to receive the award as the two other nominees were highly achieved sportsmen. After awhile the reality sunk in and I was overwhelmed as this was such a big achievement. It is one of my most prized achievements. It means a lot that my Province recognises my accolades. Being the best junior sportsman in the province for 2017 is meaningful. This achievement would not be possible without the support and dedication of my parents and my sibling, Kiara Naidoo who is my training partner, she pushes me beyond my limits.

He admitted that the award would inspire him to aim higher. “It is another stepping stone that inspires me to aim higher in the sport also, it reminds of how much can be achieved. With this, I would like to take my game to the highest possible level. My main goals are to represent my country at the Olympics as well as the World Championships.”

To be considered for the award, Yukail Naidoo represented the South Africa at the ITTF African Junior and Cadet Championships that took place in Tunisia from 9-15 April 2017. He is ranked 12th in Africa.

In his international debut, he represented the SA National U-15 boys Team at the ITTF African Junior and Cadet Champ in Algeria in April 2016.

At the SA National Championship he was crowned the U-15 SA Champion in 2017 and won 2 gold medals (singles, mixed doubles) and silver (doubles). He is SA Champion for three consecutive years (2015-2017) and remains undefeated in SA in his age category in singles.

He represented Kwa Zulu Natal (KZN) at the National Top School Championship in Johannesburg (December 2016) and he was a finalist in the boys U-15 singles and team events. At the Arnold Classic tournament held in Gauteng on 5-7 May 2017, he won both the U-15 and U-18 boys singles category.