ZIMBABWE’S legendary five-time Olympic swimmer Kirsty Coventry is set to be elected unopposed as vice-president of the International Surfing Association (ISA) at the body’s Annual General Meeting in the Azores Islands today.
BY DANIEL NHAKANISO
The seven-time Olympic medalist, who announced her retirement from swimming after last month’s Rio Olympic Games, is set to replace Australia’s Layne Beachley.
Coventry will serve on the ISA Executive Committee alongside ISA president Fernando Aguerre from Argentina and fellow vice-presidents Casper Steinfath of Denmark, Karin Sierralta of Peru and Barbara Kendall of New Zealand.
The 33-year-old, who is Africa’s most successful Olympian of all time and the top individual female swimmer in Olympic history, will also become the world governing body’s main link with the IOC after Kendall completed her Athletes’ Commission term last month.
She will also become the first ISA executive committee member from Africa.
“I am thrilled to be joining Fernando and the ISA team as vice-president at such an exciting time following surfing’s inclusion in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games,” said Coventry, who also serves as a member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Athletes’ Commission.
“I am looking forward to getting to work as we prepare for the sport’s ground-breaking debut in Tokyo and beyond.
“Surfing expresses a unique and modern blend of sport performance, culture and a connection to nature that resonates with my own global outlook.
“Throughout my career, both as an athlete and as an administrator, I have been presented with some amazing opportunities and I am excited to be starting this new adventure with the ISA.”
Coventry’s association with ISA comes after surfing was one of five new sports added to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic programme, along with baseball and softball, karate, skateboarding and sport climbing.
Last month the Harare-born swimmer told Standardsport of her plans to continue inspiring people off the pool long after her final race.
Coventry claimed 200 metres backstroke gold, 100m backstroke silver and 200m individual medley bronze at Athens 2004 before successfully defending her 200m backstroke title in Beijing, along with two other silver medals.
She is also a member of the IOC’s Olympic Solidarity and Olympic Channel Commissions as well as the Tokyo 2020 Coordination Commission and 2024 Olympics Evaluation Commission.
“We are honoured to be welcoming Kirsty as ISA vice-president,” said Aguerre.
“Her outstanding career as an elite athlete tells you everything you need to know about her commitment, dedication and talent and I know she will add a great deal to our team.
“As an IOC member, Kirsty also has very strong links with the Olympic Movement.
“This connection will be invaluable to the ISA as we prepare for surfing’s Olympic debut at Tokyo 2020.
“Surfing’s unique values are rooted in inclusivity and diversity and we are delighted that Kirsty is set to become the ISA’s first ever female vice-president from Africa.
“Global development is a key element of the ISA’s strategy and the consistent growth and reach among all areas of society is a driving force behind the ISA’s ambitions to solidify surfing’s position on the Olympic programme.”