KIRSTY Coventry is single-handedly transforming Zimbabwe into a swimming power.
Coventryâ€™s four gold medals at the short-course world championships placed Zimbabwe fourth in the medals standings, ahead of host Britain and Russia.
Â Only traditional powers the United States, Australia and the Netherlands did better.
â€œItâ€™s nice to see someone thatâ€™s not from Australia or America doing so well, showing that it can be done.
Sheâ€™s inspirational,â€ said Hannah Miley of Britain, who finished second to Coventry in the 400 individual medley (IM) and third behind the Zimbabwean in the 200 IM.
Coventry also set three world records at the championships, second only to Ryan Lochteâ€™s four.
â€œI hope I can go to Beijing and keep the ball rolling,â€ Coventry said of the upcoming Olympics, where she plans to swim four events â€” the 100 and 200 backstrokes and 200 and 400 IM â€” the same ones she won in Manchester.
At the 2004 Athens Games, Coventry won gold in the 200 backstroke, and also took home a silver and a bronze.
â€œItâ€™s been a busy week,â€ Coventry said as she pulled her purple goggles off after one race. â€œI havenâ€™t had a chance to settle down and think about it.â€
Coventry lives and trains in the United States with her personal coach at the University of Texas, Kim Brackin. She followed Brackin from Auburn, where Coventry swam in college.
â€œWe knew from our college swimming that she was a good IM swimmer, but sheâ€™s really brought herself into contention for medals in that,â€ US coach Mark Schubert said.
Coventry spent her childhood in Zimbabwe but decided to emigrate due to the limited training facilities in her home country.
â€œThere are no indoor pools, so for winter â€” three months of the year â€” you canâ€™t train,â€ she said. â€œAnd itâ€™s hard to get the funding to heat the pools.â€
The political situation in Zimbabwe is also a problem, with the election crisis headed into a third week and the results of the presidential vote still not released.
â€œI donâ€™t like to get into politics, but I am into it because my family still lives there â€” my parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles,â€ Coventry said. â€œThe situation has been so bad for so long now that everyone is hoping something changes for the better.
â€œThatâ€™s why I represent Zimbabwe and why I will always represent Zimbabwe. It still holds a place in my heart.â€
Living in the United States is just â€œa little less stressfulâ€, she said. One drawback of representing a country with so few swimmers â€” Coventry only had one teammate in Manchester â€” is that she canâ€™t enter the relay events. â€” AP.