KIRSTY Coventry capped off her illustrious Olympic career with a commendable sixth-place finish in the 200-metre backstroke in Rio de Janeiro in the early hours of yesterday as Zimbabweans took to social media to wish her a fond farewell.
BY SPORTS REPORTER
The 32-year-old Zimbabwean swimming icon’s time of 2:08.80 minutes was enough for a sixth-place finish in the final, which was won by Madeline Dirado of the United States in 2:05.99.
Pre-race favourite Katinka Hoszzu from Hungary and Canada’s Hilary Caldwell secured silver and bronze, respectively. The women’s 200m backstroke was the final Olympic swim for the seven-time Olympic medalist, who was competing in her fifth Summer Games, dating back to 2000 Sydney Olympics, where she made her debut as a 16-year-old.
Coventry, who shares the record of seven individual medals with Hungarian swimmer Krisztina Egerszegi, was bidding to become the first female swimmer to win eight individual Olympic medals.
And although she didn’t manage to add to her already impressive medal haul, Coventry ends her career as the most decorated Olympian from Africa with seven medals – two golds, three silver and two bronze medals.
“I’m so honoured to be here and to come sixth in that race with the quality of girls and the depth and strength everyone was showing throughout the last year. I’m proud of myself and it’s a great way to be finishing up,” Coventry told reporters after the race.
Despite falling short of the podium, Coventry is assured of a hero’s return when she flies home, judging by the tributes she received from Zimbabweans from all walks of life after her Olympic swansong.
The Zimbabwe Olympic Committee (ZOC) led in the tributes to Coventry. “Zimbabwe swimming icon Kirsty Coventry makes a 6th place finish in the final of the 200m backstroke with a time of 2:08:80. We [are] proud of you our queen of the waters! We salute you always,” ZOC posted on their official Facebook page.
Judo Association of Zimbabwe president and three-time All-Africa Games gold medallist in women’s judo Debi Jeans also took to Facebook to shower praise on Coventry.
“Coventry [is the] 6th fastest woman in the world in 200m backstroke by a fraction of a second! What a way to justify and finish your 5th Olympic cycle … Thanks for taking us with you on this Road to Rio journey … as always, flying the Zimbabwe flag for all to see and reminding us that patriotism, passion, dedication and discipline are the hallmarks of a champion … in sport as in life. So, so happy for you,” Jeans said.