Sat, Sep 15, 2018 - Page 16 News List

Coventry plans Zimbabwe’s Olympic revival

Reuters, HARARE

Zimbabwe’s new Minister of Sport, Arts and Recreation Kirsty Coventry believes the nation needs to be more “strategic” in the development of Olympic athletes as she seeks to unlock its potential on the global stage.

Former Olympic swimming champion Coventry, who is to turn 35 tomorrow, was earlier this week sworn in by Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa in a surprise, but largely welcomed, elevation to the Cabinet.

“Two important factors we need to consider if we are to improve our chances are obviously providing facilities and access to sport, and in this regard I think we need to be more strategic,” Coventry told reporters. “The example I always use is that of Jamaica, who decided to focus on the 100m and 200m sprints, because they saw that as a strength, and they have done remarkably well.”

“In Zimbabwe, we need to be more deliberate about what our goals are and not try to spread ourselves thinly across a whole range of sports. We have to look at where we think we can do well and focus on that,” she said. “That is not to say we will ignore other sports, of course not, but we need to have a clear plan of how we want to move forward.”

Coventry is the most successful Olympian to emerge from the African continent with seven medals in the pool, including two golds, spanning five Games, with Zimbabwe’s only other success a gold for their women’s field hockey team in Moscow in 1980.

Dubbed the nation’s “Golden Girl,” she said that in a country where economic and political challenges have left sections of society polarized, her portfolio — which also includes the arts and the upliftment of young people — is vitally important.

“I firmly believe that sport breaks down barriers between people and that it can bring a nation together in unity and pride. It transcends all sections of society, the older generation and the kids,” she said. “It brings a sense of what is possible to people and it is very exciting for me to have the opportunity to unlock our potential across not just sport, but the arts as well.”

She plans to sit down in the coming weeks with the nation’s sporting federations, coaches, players and other stakeholders to listen to their challenges.

“I want to understand how we can better support our athletes and youth, because sport and the arts is also a vehicle for job creation, which is so important for Zimbabwe,” she said.

Coventry said she never had an ambition to go into government, but now that the opportunity has presented itself, is eager to make the most of it.

“I do believe that things are brought to you for a reason and that there is a bigger picture to what we are doing. Zimbabwe is a very exciting place at the moment with everything that is happening,” Coventry said.

“I will do what I have always done, to try and inspire and uplift people. I know I will need to surround myself with a good team to achieve what we want to do, but I still see myself very much as just a person and not a politician,” she added.

Coventry has extensive experience in sports administration having been elected chairperson of the International Olympic Committee’s Athletes’ Commission earlier this year, and is also a member of the World Anti-Doping Agency’s Athlete Committee.

She has served as vice president of Zimbabwe National Olympic Committee and fulfilled the same role for the International Surfing Association.

This story has been viewed 1719 times.

Comments will be moderated. Remarks containing abusive and obscene language, personal attacks of any kind or promotion will be removed and the user banned.

TOP top