Collin Matiza Sports Editor
KIRSTY Coventry’s preparations for this year’s Rio Summer Olympic Games gathered a healthy dose of momentum when she won a number of races during the 2016 Speedo Sectionals Swimming Championship Series that took place at College Station in Texas, United States, this past weekend.
According to reports from Texas, SwimMAC’s Zimbabwean swimming icon Coventry picked up a pair of victories on the final night of the meet that featured short course yards in the preliminaries and long course metres in the evening.
On Sunday, Coventry (32) unloaded a 1:00.08 to win the women’s 100-metre backstroke and that’s in the top 10 in the world so far this year.
Aggies’ Julia Cook took second in 1:02.58 with Longhorn’s Victoria Edwards earning third in 1:03.11.
Coventry then double up with a 2:13.18 to top the women’s 200-metre Individual Medley. Aggies’ Sarah Henry (2:15.16) and Nitro’s Regan Barney (2:19.87) finished second and third.
Before Sunday’s brilliant performances, Coventry had, at the beginning of the three-day event which started on Friday, uncorked a 2:09.66 to win the women’s 200-metre backstroke.
She’s been much better historically with a best time of 2:04.81 from the 2009 World Championships that ranks her second all time best, but she didn’t have much competition in Texas at a primarily younger event.
Texas A&M’s Lisa Bratton, fresh off helping her Aggies win the SEC Title last week, posted a 2:15.73 to finish second behind Coventry while Texas Ford’s Sofie Underdahl was placed third in 2:17.23.
And on day three of the competition on Sunday, Coventry picked up two more wins, claiming the 100m backstroke (1:00.08) and the 200IM (2:13.18) to cap a good outing for herself at this event which featured a number of many established professionals, including American Olympians Cammile Adams and Breeja Larson and Swedish multi-Olympic medallist Therese Alshammar.
Also competing were Texas A&M stars Sarah Henry and Beryl Gastaldello and teenage up and comer Sean Grieshop from Nitro.
Coventry is currently based at Charlotte in Northern Carolina, United States, where she is swimming under one of that country’s top swimming clubs, SwimMac, as she prepares for the 2016 Rio Olympic Games that are scheduled to run from August 5 to 21 in Brazil.
The Zimbabwean swimmer is being helped in her preparations for the Rio Games by American coach, Kim Brackin, who helped her to win her first three Olympic medals — one gold, one silver and one bronze — at the 2004 Athens Games in Greece.
Coventry, a seven-time Olympic Games medallist, is preparing to compete in her fifth straight Olympics after having made her maiden appearance at the world’s biggest sporting showcase as a 16-year-old schoolgirl at the 2000 Sydney Games in Australia.
She later turned herself into a Zimbabwean swimming icon by winning seven medals — two golds, four silvers and one bronze — for her country at the next two Olympic Games in Athens in 2004 and then in Beijing, China, in 2008.
Illness and injury prevented her from bringing home a medal of any colour from the 2012 Olympic Games in London, but she is hoping to go into retirement in style by fishing out another piece of silverware at the Rio Games, come August this year.
Coventry has qualified to represent Zimbabwe in the women’s 100 and 200m backstroke events at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
Apart from being a competitive swimmer, Coventry is also a member of the International Olympic Committee’s Athletes’ Commission, which is headed by Claudia Bokel of Germany, and she was recently picked by the IOC to be part of the co-ordination committee for the 2020 Summer Tokyo Games in Japan.
Coventry also consults for the Zimbabwe Olympic Committee, provides motivational talks and clinics for schools and developing athletes around the world; advisor to groups, businesses, foundations and individuals interested in developing athletes’ skills and careers.