Greatness is one word that is rarely thrown about when sport is being discussed. Many have tried to reach greatness, but only a few have succeeded.
with MICHAEL KARIATI
Since independence, Zimbabwe has created a number of excellent sportspeople but none has done more to deserve greatness than Kirsty Coventry — the Queen of the Waters.
Seven Olympic Games medals — two golds, four silvers and one bronze — is perfection in any sporting language. This is on top of other countless competitions she won around the world.
Even though her Olympic Games bow was not as rosy as she would have wanted it to be, her final berth in the 200m backstroke was still good enough for a 32-year-old competing against young swimmers at the peak of their careers.
During her 16-year-old association with the Olympic Games, Coventry broke too many world records, some of them in succession and in one event for that matter.
In most parts of the country, Coventry has created admirers who have followed her in every competition she has taken part in, as she greatly contributed to the popularity swimming gained in the country.
Coventry — an athletes representative for the International Olympic Committee and World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) — made a lot of friends among the many swimmers that she contested with and many are bound to be sad to see her go.
Coventry dined with company executives, top businesspeople and even President Robert Mugabe, who gave her $100 000
after she won gold and two silver medals at the 2004 Athens Olympic Games.
It is unfortunate that unlike cash-rich sporting disciplines such as football and basketball, swimming does not pay as much. If it did, Coventry would have made a lot of money.
At 32, it is now time that she takes a rest to concentrate on her new family and other commitments such as the Kirsty Coventry Swimming Academy, which she set up last year in an effort to save people from drowning.
What is disturbing is that the possibility of discovering another Coventry in the country remains a pipe-dream as we have not taken advantage of her success to take the sport to the next level.
Right now, there are only a handful of Zimbabwean swimmers competing on the international arena, and they are all based at colleges in the United States.
Swimming facilities such as the Chitungwiza Aquatic Complex remain in a derelict state, with government, through the Ministry of Sport and Recreation, doing virtually nothing to refurbish the world-class facility, while no efforts have been made to improve Les Brown Swimming Pool in the capital.
And it’s not swimming alone that faces such a crisis.
Looking at the situation on the ground, the danger is that all that Coventry has done to encourage youngsters to take up swimming and emulate her achievements, will come to naught.
For Coventry, it is time to take a rest. She has earned her greatness.
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