Zimbabwe’s iconic swimmer Coventry out to make history

Harare, Aug 4 (IANS) Zimbabwe’s all-time record Olympic medallist and swimming sensation Kirsty Coventry is out to make history once again.

Having won seven of Zimbabwe’s eight Olympic medals since Independence in 1980, 32-year-old Coventry has once again set her eyes on winning medals at the forthcoming Rio Olympic Games, reports Xinhua.

The Olympic swimming champion has qualified for her 5th and final Olympic Games which begin in Rio de Janeiro on Friday to cap her incredible sporting journey that has inspired many young athletes in Africa and beyond.

Coventry was born and bred in Zimbabwe where she attended high school before moving to the US where she furthered her education while honing her swimming skills at the same time.

It has been said that the swimming career of Coventry benefited immensely from the state-of-the-art facilities provided at Auburn University in Alabama where she studied.

With a strong passion for the sport, Coventry made Olympic Games debut in Sydney in 2000 when she was just 17. In 2004, she won her first Olympic gold medal in Athens as well as silver and bronze. The moment marked the beginning of a record-breaking athletic career which has seen her ultimately becoming one of the world’s highest achieving female swimmers.

Coventry went on to win four more medals in the Beijing Olympics in 2008, including retaining the gold medal in her specialty event, the 200m backstroke.

After the 2008 Olympics performance, she was hailed as one of Zimbabwe’s greatest heroes, and called a national treasure by the head of the country’s Olympic Committee.

President Robert Mugabe also awarded her $100,000 cash for her Olympic medal wins, and called her a “golden girl”.

Coventry’s extraordinary performance has been acknowledged by many the world over, but more importantly in Africa and her native Zimbabwe where swimming as a sport still faces many hurdles.

Twice crowned Olympic champion, and with seven Olympic medals, Coventry has won more individual Olympic medals than any female swimmer in history.

She is also, without doubt, Africa’s most successful Olympic athlete,” reads a statement on the website of her “Kirsty Coventry Academy” that she established in 2015 to address drowning problems and empower individuals through sports training programs.

The now married Coventry has already made history but still aspires to break a new record at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics.

She shares the record of seven individual medals with Hungarian swimmer Krisztina Egerszegi and she could possibly become one of the first female swimmers to win eight individual medals.

She is carrying the nation’s hopes at Rio de Janeiro, where she is billed to compete in the women’s 200m backstroke, women’s 100m backstroke and women’s 200m individual medley.

Coventry has been chosen as Zimbabwe’s flag bearer at the Olympics opening ceremony at Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro this Friday.

Zimbabwe Aquatic Union president Mary Kloppers told Xinhua they hoped Coventry would do well despite the disadvantage of age.

“We know her preparations have been tailor made for her because of the age and she has been working very hard and whatever the performance, it will be the best of what she can do,” she said.

Fans are also rallying behind her and hope she will once again lift Zimbabwe’s flag high.

“I so enjoyed being able to watch you swim in the 2012 Olympics; I was absolutely inspired by your dedication to Zimbabwe and your sport. All the very best — do Zimbabwe proud as I know you will,” said former education Minister David Coltart.

“Go be an icon of hope for our beloved country. My prayers are with you. You inspire our young people to work hard and succeed in all they do in life,” commented yet another fan on Facebook.

–IANS

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