BY DANIEL NHAKANISO
Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation minister Kirsty Coventry is set to continue in her role as chairperson of the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) Athletes’ Commission after the Olympic body’s executive board last week postponed the athletes’ representative body’s elections until next year.
Coventry’s term at the helm of the influential IOC Athletes’ Commission was set to conclude at the postponed Tokyo Olympics, but she was eligible to seek another four-year stint on the Commission because she competed at Rio 2016.
The legendary Zimbabwean swimmer, who is Africa’s most decorated Olympian, had, however, already revealed that she would not be seeking re-election and did not feature on the list of 30 candidates confirmed in December last year.
With the Tokyo Olympics now postponed till next year in the wake of coronavirus pandemic, the IOC executive board on Thursday announced the decision to extend the IOC membership of the Athletes’ Commission representatives whose terms would have expired at this year’s Olympic Games in Tokyo.
IOC president Thomas Bach announced the news during an online press conference following the executive board meeting.
“We had to address the situation regarding the five members of the IOC Athletes’ Commission, whose terms would have expired this year,” he said.
“The executive board was of the unanimous opinion that in this critical time we need full representation of athletes and the athletes’ voice in this endeavour to organise the postponed Olympic Games.
“Therefore, we should not have any vacancies with regard to athletes’ representation. The board decided that the term of these five members would be extended until the end of the Olympic Games, now being celebrated in 2021. During these postponed Games we would have the regular elections for the replacement of these five members,” Bach said.
The seven-time Olympic medal-winning swimmer has been a member of the IOC Athletes’ Commission since 2012.
Even after completing her term as IOC Athletes chairperson next year, Coventry is reportedly set to be granted permanent membership by the IOC, having already been appointed by IOC as head of the Coordination Commission for the 2022 Summer Youth Olympic Games in Dakar.
Coventry’s incredible sporting career stretches back to Sydney 2000 and included competing at five Olympic Games up to Rio 2016.
She won consecutive gold medals in the 200m backstroke at Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008.
With seven World championship titles and a record 14 African golds, she is also Africa’s most successful female swimmer.
The 34-year-old has also had success out of the pool. She also serves on the board of the World Anti-Doping Agency, and Fina’s athlete commission. Coventry is a member of the Tokyo 2020 Coordination Commission and a member of the Olympic Solidarity organisation.
She is a vice-president of the International Surfing Association.