IT is befitting that swimming superpower Kirsty Coventry be the Zimbabwean flag bearer at tonight’s opening ceremony of the London Olympics. She is the athlete most likely to raise the national flag higher with a medal or more.Coventry has won seven Olympic medals and this edition, which could be her last at 28 years, presents her the opportunity to increase her collection as she contests in three disciplines.
Her favourite event is the 200m backstroke. If she is to make the podium it would probably be courtesy of this discipline in which she has so far collected two gold medals at the Olympics and, what’s more, is defending champion.
So Zimbabwe will once again look to their sole Olympic medal provider in recent times after suffering the disappointment of losing another genuine medal prospect in sprint star Ngoni Makusha whose hope, however, lay in long jump.
If the run up to the games is anything to go by, then there is little hope that Zimbabwe’s six other athletes will bring any medals home. But this is sport and it is sometimes unpredictable; their chances of landing a medal cannot be totally dismissed.
Marathon runners Cuthbert Nyasango, Sharon Tawengwa and Wirimai Zhuwawo will have to perform way beyond their current records if they are to upstage athletes from powerhouses like Kenya.
Jamie Mackenzie and Micheen Thornycroft, in rowing, are the other representatives but they too face a tough task, as will Chris Felgate in triathlon.
But never mind the slim medal hopes, their mere participation will at least prove to the world that sport is alive in Zimbabwe.
However the Coventry Zimbabwe is banking on is not quite the same swimmer she once was, having slowed down due to injuries, illness, and age.
Coventry starts with the 100m backstroke heats on Sunday, with semi-finals expected later that evening, followed by finals on Monday.
Her schedule will see her competing in the 200m individual medley heat on Monday with the semis later that evening. This means depending on progress, on Monday Kirsty will go into the pool three times.
The 200m medley final is set for Tuesday when Coventry will defend her title in her favourite 200m back stroke event.
Tonight though, Zimbabwe will parade a small team of just seven athletes with officials making the bigger number.