Ellina Mhlanga, Harare Bureau
AFTER her retirement from competitive swimming last year, Kirsty Coventry is not taking a break from the sport where she enjoyed a remarkable career, winning seven Olympic medals for the country.
The most decorated Zimbabwean athlete was on Sunday elected as one of the two Zimbabwe Olympic Committee vice-presidents in an elective general assembly at Prince Edward School.
Zimbabwe Karate Union secretary-general, Steven Charandura, said Coventry’s involvement with the National Olympic Committee was good news for sport.
“I think the coming in of Kirsty as the new ZOC vice-president to us is very good news. We are saying we want someone who was in the trenches. It’s indeed good news for us.
“Kirsty is someone who has been in the trenches, she has seen it all, she has the experience and she knows the plight of athletes. She knows where to unlock (the door) for us to perform better (at the Olympics).
“I just hope the board is gifted with listening. I think they have to listen to her contribution and the value she is bringing in. I think it will change the complexion of sport,” said Charandura.
Zimbabwe Aquatic Union president, Mary Kloppers, weighed in to say the former athlete has a lot to offer to local sport considering her achievements.
“We nominated her. She has a lot to offer Zimbabwe. She has brought up very good relationships with many partners. I think that will be beneficial to all sport associations.
“She is very level-headed and we know what she has achieved. What she has achieved, she has to be focused and goal oriented. She knows where she wants to help,” said Kloppers.
Zimbabwe Softball Association president, Stonard Mapfumo, is confident with her background as an athlete, Coventry has a better insight on how national sport associations can prepare their athletes for the bigger stage in sport.
“She understands how we have to operate as national associations . . . the time we need to prepare an Olympic athlete and win a medal.
“When the board makes decisions, they won’t just make armchair decisions because we have someone who has been in the trenches. So it’s really a positive step.
“So for us we are looking at it positively and saying this is a step in the right direction for Zimbabwe’s sport in the Olympic Movement,” Mapfumo said.
Before Sunday’s developments, Coventry was first elected into the International Olympic Committee’s Athletes’ Commission in 2012.
She sits on the Olympic Solidarity Commission, the Tokyo 2020 Co-ordination Commission, the 2024 Evaluation Commission, the International and Public Affairs Commission and Olympic Channel Commission.
She is also World Anti-doping Foundation board member and World Anti-doping Athletes Commission member.
National Athletics Association of Zimbabwe president, Tendai Tagara, says Coventry has proved beyond any doubt her abilities to lead.
“It adds value to our sports associations because technically she understands the technical requirement of an Olympic athlete. It will help us when we talk to ZOC for long planning because an Olympic medal is not a dream. So she brings vast experience to the organisation.
“She is a member of the IOC that on its own brings a lot of value and it puts Zimbabwe on the world map. Again on planning whatever Kirsty will be saying, she will not be dreaming because she has been there.
“It’s not all Olympians that are good coaches or administrators. But Kirsty has proved beyond any doubt she has the capabilities because being elected into IOC, it means she is capable,” said Tagara.
Zimbabwe Handball Federation president, Stewart Sanhewe, said from the conversation he has had with the newly-elected ZOC vice-president, she is keen to see more Olympians coming out of this country.
“She is one person who really wants to see other athletes being developed into Olympic athletes. That’s the attitude I got from her.
“I take it as a positive move looking at her experience as an athlete. Remember the primary objective of ZOC is to develop athletes for podium performance. She has gone up the ladder, she has a lot of experience, she knows what is required to be an Olympian.
“I think change will come with the board being able to accept advice they get from her and adjust. She is one of those pillars we have always said, this is someone we need,” Sanhewe added.
After her election on Sunday, Coventry said she is looking forward to the board’s first meeting to share and exchange ideas with the rest of the board members.