DOZENS of women have made a significant impact on Zimbabwean sport for decades and it is perhaps fitting that the best of them all, Africa’s greatest Olympian Kirsty Coventry, is the Minister of Sport in this country at a time there is some positive vibe surrounding the ladies.
By Enock Muchinjo
Coventry’s courage and class in the pool and off it have helped shape sport in Zimbabwe. She has gone where no one has gone before.
Her trailblazing qualities — becoming an Olympic swimming champion and world record-holder — are something this country is extremely proud of.
It will take something pretty special for any Zimbabwean athlete — male or female — to match the exploits of Coventry and how amazing it would be if it was another woman, or women, to pull off something remotely close to the continent’s most decorated Olympian.
The national netball team going to the World Cup in England in July has created a talking point and got the attention of those that ordinarily would not give a second thought about sport, let alone netball.
Qualifying third from Africa behind continental giants Uganda and Malawi, the Zimbabweans will be seen as underdogs in a group that also has reigning world champions Australia alongside Northern Ireland and Sri Lanka.
But qualifying for the greatest showpiece in their sport, something has already been achieved and to get people talking, as has been happening, is a plus in its own right for women’s sport in this country.
However, if that does not translate into more support and more funding for netball, then as a nation we would have missed out on a great opportunity.
Netball, a traditional sport played by women across the length and breadth of the country, should use this momentous occasion in their sport to find a place in the Zimbabwean national psyche.
Not forgetting the national women’s team, which last week won an African tournament to reach the ICC Women’s Twenty20 World Cup Global Qualifier. They have a pretty good chance of qualifying for the main event.
Again, for a team that often gets a raw deal from its federation, this is an opportunistic time to change mindsets — with all the hype around the side’s recent achievement.
As a nation, it seems we do have a higher chance of international recognition and success with women’s sport. The hockey team winning the Olympic gold medal in 1980 set the tone for Coventry’s heroics two decades later.
The netball stars and cricketers have not reached those lofty levels, but they have given hint that the tradition of our women becoming world-beaters can be carried on if as a nation we invest in those that give us the best chance of doing well in international sport — the ladies.