NURTURING another iconic swimmer of Kirsty Coventry’s calibre, the country’s most decorated Olympian, is an insurmountable act.Zimbabwe Aquatic Union (ZAU) president, Mary Kloppers told the Financial Gazette Sport that her union was in a financial quagmire, a development which makes it difficult to produce swimmers of Coventry’s calibre.
“While Kirsty (Coventry) may have learnt to swim in her home pool, she went through the club system to progress to the level where she was spotted by her American coach,” said Kloppers.
“Most clubs operate from schools — though they struggle to find decent pools — to be able to identify young talent and nurture it.
“Currently, ZAU is surviving through swim clubs where teachers help develop talent by grooming swimmers for future competitions.
“There are also several swimming teachers and most children go to them to learn and then move on to clubs.
“However, our local facilities are fine to cater for swimmers up to the age of 18. After that they need to move to a more competitive environment.
“We are fortunate to get some financial assistance from the International Olympic Committee via the Zimbabwe Olympic Committee,” added Kloppers.
“However, the majority of our competitive swimmers’ costs per year amount to US$7 000.
“These costs, unfortunately, are all carried by the parents as corporate sponsorship is very difficult to secure.
“ZAU and the swimming board have very hard working individuals who give freely of their time to further the sport in Zimbabwe, for that I am very grateful,” she said.
“I was absolutely blown away by the public support our swimmers received at last year’s (African Union Sports Council) Region V U20 Games. Hopefully the corporate community will appreciate the exposure swimming can give them.”
“Bulawayo is now very fortunate to be equipped with state of the art facilities and this is sure to improve our standards.”
Affectionately known as “Zimbabwe’s Golden Girl”, Coventry who is now aged 31, has won seven individual medals between the Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008 Games.
Coventry was taught swimming by her mother and grandfather at an early age and joined her first swim club at the age of six.
While Coventry was introduced to the sport by her parents at home, with the ZAU taking up the responsibility of the athlete, many potential swimmers only begin to embrace the sport at primary school level as most households in the country today have abandoned swimming pools due to water shortages.
Parental coaching and support in the sport of swimming has become an insurmountable task for Zimbabweans whose only option is to turn to the few community pools around.