Kirsty Coventry is a Zimbabwean former swimmer and former world record holder. She attended and swam competitively for Auburn University in Alabama in the United States. At the 2004 Summer Olympics, in Athens, Greece, Coventry won three Olympic medals: a gold, a silver and a bronze while in the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, she won four medals: a gold and three silver. She was subsequently described by Paul Chingoka head of the Zimbabwe Olympic Committee, as “our national treasure”. Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe called her “a golden girl” and awarded her US$100,000 in cash for her 2008 Olympic performance.
Kirsty Coventry Biography
Coventry attended Dominican Convent High School, Harare in Zimbabwe. In 2000, while still in high school, Coventry became the first Zimbabwean swimmer to reach the semifinals at the Olympics and was named Zimbabwe’s Sports Woman of the Year.
As a student at Auburn University, Coventry helped lead the Tigers to National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Championships in 2003 and 2004. In 2005, she was the top individual scorer at the NCAA Championships and captured three individual titles including the 200-yard, 400 y individual medley (IM) and the 200 y backstroke for the second consecutive season. She was named the College Swimming Coaches Association Swimmer of the Meet for her efforts. Other awards include 2005 Southeastern Conference (SEC) Swimmer of the Year and the 2004–05 SEC Female Athlete of the Year. She was also the recipient of the 2004–05 Honda Sports Award for Swimming and Diving, recognizing her as the outstanding college female swimmer of the year.
At the 2005 World Championships in Montreal, Coventry improved on her 2004 Olympic medal count by winning gold in both the 100 m and 200 m backstroke and silver in the 200 m and the 400 m IM. She bettered her Olympic gold-winning 200 m backstroke time with a performance of 2:08.52. Although, she was one of just two swimmers from Zimbabwe excluding rising junior Warren Paynter. Her performance allowed her country to rank third in the medal count by nation. In addition, she picked up the female swimmer of the meet honors.
In Melbourne at the 2007 World Championships, Coventry won silver medals in the 200 m backstroke and 200 m IM. She was disqualified in the 400 m IM when finishing second to eventual winner Katie Hoff in her heat. Coventry finished in a disappointing 14th place in the 100 m backstroke in a time of 1:01.73, failing to qualify for the final. She continued her good form of 2007 by winning four gold medals at the International Swim Meet in Narashino, Japan. She led the way in the 200 m and 400 m IM as well as the 100 m and 200 m backstroke.
In 2008, Coventry broke her first world record in the 200 m backstroke at the Missouri Grand Prix. She bettered the mark set by Krisztina Egerszegi in August 1991, the second oldest swimming world record. Her new record was 2:06:39. Coventry continued her winning streak at the meet by winning the 100 m backstroke and the 200 m IM. Coventry is the third woman in history to break the 1:00 minute barrier in the 100 m backstroke, and the second to break the 59-second barrier.
Kirsty Coventry Medals
With seven Olympic medals, Coventry is the most decorated Olympian from Africa. Together with Krisztina Egerszegi, she also won the most individual Olympic medals in women’s swimming. She competed at five Olympics, from 2000-16. She retired from competition following the 2016 Summer Olympics.
2002 Commonwealth Games medals
- Gold in the 200 m IM (2:14.53)
2004 Olympic medals
- Bronze in the 200 m IM (2:12.72) – Zimbabwe’s second Olympic medal
- Gold in the 200 m backstroke (2:09.19)
- Silver in the 100 m backstroke (1:00.50)
2005 World Championship medals
- Gold in the 100 m backstroke (1:00.24)
- Gold in the 200 m backstroke (2:08.52)
- Silver in the 200 m IM (2:11.13)
- Silver in the 400 m IM (4:39.72)
2007 All-Africa Games
- Gold in the 200 m IM (2:13.02 CR)
- Gold in the 400 m IM (4:39.91 CR)
- Gold in the 50 m freestyle (26.19)
- Gold in the 800 m freestyle (8:43.89 CR)
- Gold in the 50 m backstroke (28.89 AR)
- Gold in the 100 m backstroke (1:01.28 CR)
- Gold in the 200 m backstroke (2:10.66 CR)
- Silver in the 100 m breaststroke (1:11.86)
- Silver in the 4 × 100 m medley (4:21.60 NR)
- Silver in the 4 × 200 m freestyle (8:38.20 NR)
2007 World Championship medals
- Silver in the 200 m backstroke (2:07.54)
- Silver in the 200 m IM (2:10.74)
2008 Olympic Medals
- Silver in the 400 m IM (4:29.89 AR)
- Silver in the 100 m Backstroke (59.19)(58.77 WR semis)
- Silver in the 200 m IM (2:08.59 AR)
- Gold in the 200 m Backstroke (2:05.24) WR
2009 World Championship medals
- Gold in the 200 m backstroke (2:04.81) WR
- Silver in the 400 m IM (4:32.12)
2011 All-Africa Games
- Gold in the 200 m IM (2:13.70)
- Gold in the 400 m IM (4:44.34)
- Gold in the 100 m backstroke (1:00.86 CR)
- Gold in the 200 m backstroke (2:12.40)
- Silver in the 100 m butterfly (1:02.20)
- Silver in the 4 × 100 m medley (4:24.01)
- Silver in the 4 × 100 m freestyle (3:57.81)
- Silver in the 4 × 200 m freestyle
2015 All-Africa Games
- Gold 100m Backstroke (1:01.15)
- Gold 200m Backstroke (2:13.29)
- Gold 200m Individual Medley (2:16.05)
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