Charlotte, North Carolina, USA
“I’m very proud to be Zimbabwean and to represent Zimbabwe.”
Zimbabwe’s Golden Girl and the most unifying citizen of Zimbabwe to date is none other than our awe-inspiring Olympic swimmer Kirsty Coventry.
Kirsty, who we all can boast has the highest number of individual Olympic medals of all female swimmers in history and the highest number of Olympic medals in African history (all sports), is a Zimbassador who has the ability to bring Zimbabweans across the globe together. From rural Zimbabwe and into the cities, everyone knows her name and is proud of her accomplishments.
At only 16-years old, Kirsty made her first Olympic appearance in the 2000 games in Sydney, Australia. Leaving Zimbabwe when she was 18, she received a full scholarship to study at Auburn University in Alabama, USA. She experienced the same trepidation that other young people moving abroad to study may also feel,
“It was my first time to travel on my own and my first time in the US. I have never been so scared but I knew that I needed to get out of my comfort zone in order to grow.”
Since then, Kirsty has lived in South Africa and Monaco and is now living in Charlotte, North Carolina where her coach is based. Like other Zimbabweans living in the diaspora, Kirsty who manages to go back home every two years misses Zimbabwe and her family and friends,
“I still go back to Zimbabwe but I miss home, I miss having a close community of family and friends. I’m very good at getting on with life and being the best I can be in this moment.”
She values her experiences abroad and where they have taken her, including meeting her husband (also a Zimbabwean) and meeting the Pope at a Mass in the Vatican.
After winning 7 Olympic medals for Zimbabwe, Kirsty found a way to give further by founding the Kirsty Coventry Academy – an academy to teach children the “life skill” of swimming and prevent the unfortunately common incidence of drowning in Zimbabwe. Through her academy, scores of Zimbabwean children have learned how to swim.
Our Kirsty will represent Zimbabwe in the 100M backstroke at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in August this year. This will be her 5th Olympic Games and Zimbassador encourages Zimbabweans back home and in the diaspora to turn on your TVs, computers, twitter accounts and other social media applications to cheer her on! Her incredible journey has inspired and continues to inspire young Zimbabwean athletes to pursue their sporting ambitions, no matter the odds.
Kirsty values her ability to grab opportunities and make the most of them. With the cheers of an entire country behind her, Kirsty’s success, perseverance likeable demeanour have definitely shone brighter than colour, social-standing or political affiliation.
“I knew that I had an amazing opportunity and I needed to do everything I could to ensure I put everything I could to maximize on this opportunity.”
Kirsty’s Dream for Zimbabwe is for “the day hope can be turned to opportunity and opportunity can be changed to success.”
Do you know someone who you think should become a Zimbassador? Please use the nomination form on this page to let us know so that we get in touch with them.
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