KIRSTY Coventry’s recent attendance of the Dairibord Schools Rugby Festival in Harare highlighted the importance of role models in sport.
Days after taking her seat on the Zimbabwe Olympic Committee board, the 33-year-old found time to talk to young sportsmen and women at the festival.
“When they asked me to come and talk to these kids about turning sport into a profession, I jumped at the opportunity,” said Coventry. “I know in swimming, and more specifically in my career, I was one of the first athletes to turn professional. It’s not professional in the sense of monetary value, as compared to someone in a field like football or cricket, but I would like to think I did pretty well for myself.
“I have been very fortunate enough to able turn swimming into something viable and something I can eke a living out of. It is my experiences and the wisdom that I have gained over the years that I wish to share with these kids.”
While modesty becomes her, few local athletes are better placed to impart wisdom than a former Olympic and World champion.
Born September 16, 1983, Kirsty Leigh Coventry fought through bullying and dyslexia – a learning disorder – to become Africa’s greatest ever Olympian.
On top of her Commonwealth (one), World (three), and All-Africa (11) gold medals and records, she retired after last year’s Rio Summer Olympics with seven medals: two gold, four silver and a bronze.
Her secret, one she shared with the kids, was: “I think having good people around you and being smart about how you go around doing your things is a very good place to start.
“I was fortunate to have been introduced to great coaches early in my career in Kim Bracken and my Olympic coach David Marsh. Those two coaches knew the lie of the land and helped me navigate it.
“Hard work and perseverance are also good qualities; you wouldn’t believe how many countless hours I spent in the water perfecting my craft, working on my stroke and trying to improve my times.”
Coventry’s next hurdle will be to help turn around the fortunes of the Zimbabwe Olympic Committee, into which she was almost unanimously voted as a vice-president.
Of the 42 associations that cast their votes, 38 went with Coventry.
“I am thankful to all the national federations that voted for me, and the huge number shows that they have faith in me. It gives me a lot of more confidence that the federations believe that I can add value,” she said.
Commenting on the job ahead, she said: “There was quite a lot of negative Press regarding the constitution but I’m excited that we are going to be looking at evolving the constitution because it definitely needs evolution.
“I had lunch with (Zoc president) Admire Masenda and the other vice-president today (Friday) and discussed the direction we want to go and the things we want to achieve. One of the first things we want do is to actually have a sit-down with the national federations and find out what they need and want from us.
“We are also looking at how we get better support for our lead athletes, and also identify those that have the potential to be Olympic finalists. We also want to identify the particular sport that we want to target and strengthen the selected international federations.”