WHEN swimming sensation Kirsty Coventry called time on her illustrious career in competitive swimming after the Rio Olympic Games last year, some thought it would mark the end of the then 33-year-old seven-time Olympic medalist’s involvement in sport.
BY SPORTS CORRESPONDENT
Coventry was, however, quick to dispel such fears: “Although I won’t be swimming competitively, I am not walking away from representing our beautiful country and our beautiful nation through sport and responsibility projects. I hope this will inspire children here in Zimbabwe and Africa to follow their dreams and keep believing in themselves” Coventry was quoted as saying then.
And true to her word, Coventry has hardly taken any time to rest after her retirement recently, being appointed vice-president of the International Surfing Association in addition to her roles as a member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Athletes’ Commission and athlete committee member at the World Anti-Doping Agency.
Locally, the revered swimmer has been busy with various projects, including her swimming project the Kirsty Coventry Academy, which she set up in 2015 in an effort to reduce drowning incidents by training coaches, utilising water safety and drowning prevention campaigns.
Coventry has also been spearheading various anti-doping, health and education campaigns.
Last Saturday, Coventry visited Chitungwiza where she was guest of honour at a kids’ swimming gala and women empowerment campaign event held at Cornerstone Group of Schools.
Dubbed the “Chitungwiza Swimming Bash — Sport as A Tool For Personal and Gender Development”, Coventry was accompanied by rugby and basketball player as well as a volunteer at the Kirsty Coventry Academy, Charity Mucucuti, to witness a swimming showcase by pupils and students.
In her brief speech, the “Golden Girl” highlighted how sport could be a tool for gender balance, personal and national development as she narrated her own story.
Coventry gave tribute to her supportive family for her blissful swimming career, especially her mother, saying women were the source of family, social and national development.
Later, women mostly parents from the school and surrounding communities took part in various outreach programmes designed by Kirsty Coventry Academy to celebrate International Women’s Day which was celebrated last week.
With the support and assistance of her husband and academy co-founder Tyrone Seward, as well as staff, Coventry has earmarked a number of outreach programmes on health, sexual rights, entrepreneurship, childcare and sustainable environment this year.
In her remarks, Coventry also thanked Cornerstone, the only school with a running swimming pool in Chitungwiza for its endeavour to spearhead sport development, stating her passion for such community initiatives.
Wellington Zimbowa, co-coordinator of the event said: “The overall aim of education is to discover and nurture talent, whether it be academic, creative or psycho-skill based. We are very grateful to Kirsty and her academy for their presence at this event. She is a renowned swimming star and her presence will help convince and solicit support from parents. From her lively presence here, the message is clear: beyond academics, there are living legends who have made it in sport and also some other talent skills worth emulating.”
Cornerstone director Elizabeth Mukuwane said her institution was open to the Chitungwiza community in developing young minds, sport and creativity as a way of also fighting crime.
“Beyond the state-of-the-art sport facilities at Cornerstone, such as an international standard swimming pool and an all-weather multi-court as well as competent sport tutors, the war is lost if parents are not convinced that sport can open the world,” she said.
Mukuwane added that opening sport facilities for the community and the pipeline nutrition gardening programme for women, intertwined with Kirsty Coventry Academy’s vision, hence the desire to partner it and its brand wherever