FOUR years ago Zimbabweans had rare celebratory moments. Kirsty Coventry, the US-based queen of the waters, powered to gold, silver and bronze medals at the Olympic Games in Athens.
With those feats Coventryâ€™s name was carved in the history books as one of Zimbabweâ€™s greatest ever sportspersons. But then she went further and scaled greater heights by smashing several world records and winning international galas.
In winning at the Olympics, the Harare-born swimmer ended Zimbabweâ€™s 25-year Olympic medal drought. The last Zimbabweans to win at the Summer Olympics had been the national womenâ€™s hockey team, which entered the Moscow Games in 1980 as late replacements and shocked the sporting world by clinching gold.
Although Coventry went on to make headlines in different galas across the world, it was her Olympics heroics, beamed live in Zimbabwe that firmly established her as a genuine national sporting icon.
Today, the Zimbabwe Olympic Committee will announce “Team Zimbabwe”, the squad that will represent the country at the 2008 Beijing Games in China, next month.
Realistically, Coventry is the only medal hopeful in the squad that will be announced today, but the Zimbabwe Olympic Committee speak highly of promising triathlete Chris Felgate, and long-jumper Ngoni Makusha. Makusha is a national record holder who is currently ranked in the top ten in the world.
But not to be forgotten are sprinters, Brian Dzingai and Talkmore Nyongani, who will form part of a relay team that has promised so much but has come short on the big stage.
If any of these athletes are to achieve something, they will become the first Zimbabwean males to win a medal at the Olympics. One of the biggest names set to be chosen by ZOC for the Beijing Games is Cara Black, whose chances of succeeding are diminished because she will contest in the singles, not her fortÃ©. Black is a doubles specialist who has won several Grand Slams on the circuit.
By Enock MuchinjoÂ