Big night looms for Kirsty Coventry Kirsty Coventry

Collin Matiza Sports Editor

THE wait is finally over.

Zimbabwe’s Kirsty Coventry will tonight join the immortals of international swimming when she gets inducted into International Swimming Hall of Fame during the 58th Annual Hall of Fame Induction and Specialty Awards ceremony in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, the US.

The International Swimming Hall of Fame (ISHOF) will induct its prestigious Class of 2023. This year, ISHOF will induct 13 honorees from eight countries: five swimmers, two coaches, one diver, one water polo player, one synchronized swimmer, one open water swimmer, one contributor and its first Paralympian.

Tonight’s festivities will see the likes of Michael Phelps, Missy Franklin, Bob Bowman, Cesar Cielo, Kosuke Kitajima and Coventry being recognised for their excellence in the sport of swimming.  The induction ceremony will be hosted by Dara Torres, a 12-time Olympic medallist.

The honorees will share their Olympic stories in their own words! The event includes special presentation to each of these aquatic greats.

And Zimbabwe will be well represented at this special and prestigious event tonight by seven-time Olympic swimming medallist Coventry.

Coventry first competed at the 2000 Olympic Games as a teenager, and although she failed to advance to any finals, the experience was valuable and allowed the girl from Zimbabwe to get an up-close view of elite racing.

Continuing to hone her skills, she made a major decision, to attend Auburn University, an NCAA powerhouse in the United States.

Behind her work at Auburn, Coventry elevated her status on the international stage and made her second Olympics, in 2004 in Athens, Greece, a successful appearance.

Coventry collected a full set of medals in that Olympiad, claiming gold in the 200-metre backstroke, silver in the 100 backstroke and bronze in the 200 Individual Medley.

She was even more impressive at the next year’s World Championships in Montreal, Canada, where she became one of the few athletes in history to win four individual medals at a single Worlds.

In addition to winning titles in the 100 and 200-metre backstroke, Coventry was the silver medalist in the 200 and 400 IM.  Her win in the 100 backstroke arrived over world-record holder Natalie Coughlin, one of the few defeats the American endured between back-to-back Olympic crowns in 2004 and 2008.

Coventry added two medals at the 2007 World Championships and in early 2008, she set her first world record, breaking a 16-year-old standard in the 200-metre backstroke.

At the 2008 Olympic Games, Coventry won four medals. In her first three events in Beijing, China, she earned silver medals in the 400 IM, 100 backstroke and 200 IM.  She broke through in her fourth event, winning gold in the 200 backstroke in world-record time.

A year later, Coventry won a silver medal at the World Championships in the 400 IM and secured another world title in the 200 backstroke, where she lowered her world record.

Coventry also competed at the 2012 and 2016 Olympic Games, bringing her total number of Olympic appearances to five.  Overall, she won seven Olympic medals and eight medals at the World Championships, all from individual events and was a five-time world-record setter.

Beyond her success in the pool, Coventry has been a member of the International Committee for more than a decade, helping to ensure positive experiences for athletes. She has also served in roles with World Aquatics and the World Anti-Doping Agency.

Coventry will be remembered for her multi-event talent and enduring legacy as a major factor in international competition.

Meanwhile, during his swimming career, American legend Phelps swam in five Olympic Games between 2000 and 2016, winning a record total of 28 Olympic medals, according to insidethegames.

Twenty-three of these were gold, while he topped up his tally with three silvers and two bronze.

He could swim any stroke and the 37-year-old set 39 world records in his sensational career, winning 27 world titles. Also to be inducted tonight is Missy Franklin of the United States, who retired in 2018 having won four golds and a bronze at the London 2012 Olympics

She set a female record of six world golds the following year.

Japan’s Kosuke Kitajima, who won the 100 and 200m breaststroke at Athens 2004 and retained both titles at Beijing 2008, is another to be inducted tonight.

He is joined by Cesar Cielo of Brazil, who won the Beijing 2008 men’s 50m freestyle title and earned two Olympic bronzes, six world golds and five short-course titles.

China’s Wu Minxia, who won five Olympic diving golds between Athens 2004 and Rio 2016, is another to be inducted tonight.

Trischa Zorn of the US, who was blind from birth, becomes the first Paralympian to be recognised.

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