Swimming across the world

Freshman Kledi Kadiu moves to St. Louis to for higher level competition


Courtesy of Kledi Kadiu

Freshman Kledi Kadiu trains in the pool for the Phillips 66 National Championship. Kadiu moved from Albania in pursuit of higher competition. "It’s been good to train here since America has way better resources and more ways to make swimming fun again," Kadiu said. "It helps me remember why I fell in love with the sport in the first place."

With little competition in Albania, freshman Kledi Kadiu moved 5,407 miles to St. Louis to train for the 2019 Phillips 66 National Championship, leaving his friends, family and home behind to realize his “American dream.”

Having to deal with the distance of leaving his family, learning a new language, adapting to a new culture and making new friends while still focusing on doing well on school-this was a huge change for Kadiu.

“I moved here last year and I thought that it was much better for swimming and school, and I thought I could have a better life,” Kadiu said. “It was very different having to adapt to a new culture, having to learn the social cues and different mannerisms that they use here since [Albania] is such a small country, most everyone knows everyone so we all treat each other like one big family. Soon it got really hard because my parents were back home in Albania, and I missed my friends and big family.”

Kadiu moved in with his aunt and cousins that he had only met a few times prior for his first year in America.

“Last year I went to St. John Lutheran for eighth grade, but I wanted to go to public school. I thought I would get a better education, and because I am not a U.S. citizen my parents had to move to the U.S.,” Kadiu said.

According to the U.S Supreme Court ruling  Plyler vs. Doe case in 1982, undocumented children and young adults have the same right to attend public primary and secondary school as U.S. citizens, but students must have a permanent residency in the U.S. with an immediate family member. With this knowledge, Kadiu’s family moved to America so he could receive a public school education.

“In Albania, no one really studies or tries hard in school so it was weird seeing the level of participation in school. [Kadiu’s friends from Albania]  only want to have fun, and hang out, and don’t think about their future or even care at the moment,” Kadiu said. “People who actually try to do well in school are [seen as] outcasts in Albania, and here I’m not the only one who wants to do well.”

This summer, Kadiu’s entire family left behind their lives in Albania to support his future and join him in America.

“I feel like I have to try hard and do well here or then all of the sacrifices my parents have made won’t be worth it,” Kadiu said.

Kadiu believed moving to Saint Louis was the best option knowing that Missouri had a very high level of swimming competition.

“There’s nobody good in Albania, everyone was really slow, I was one of the fastest swimmers in the country,” Kadiu said. “It’s been good to train here since America has way better resources and more ways to make swimming fun again… it helps me remember why I fell in love with the sport in the first place. The competition bar is set pretty high here and [Albania] only had two Olympic swimmers in [Albanian] history and they actually never got the cuts.”