Coventry feels weight of expectations
ZIMBABWE’S swimming ace Kirsty Coventry has admitted feeling the weight of the nation’s expectations on her shoulders ahead of the London Olympics which will likely be her last
Coventry, who turns 29 in September, won seven medals for her country in her last two appearances at the Athens and Beijing Olympics – three golds and four silvers.
Ahead of the London games which run from July 27 to August 12, she says the pressure is on to match those heroics.
She has been training hard in the Tunisian capital Tunis and flies to London later this week aiming for glory in the 100m backstroke, the 200m backstroke and the 200m individual medley.
“There’s a lot of pressure coming from people back home wanting me to repeat the same thing,” she told the Olympics internet website, Around the Rings
Coventry added: “I would also love to do that as well. But I do know that I am four years older and I’m one of the oldest competitors in that event this year. But I believe that will give me a leg up on the other athletes experience-wise.”
Writing on Twitter, she said she still get nervous before a race, “not because I haven't prepared but because of what it means to me, my country, my fans, friends and family.”
Coventry has been training under the watchful eye of her American coach Kim Bracken.
Bracken told Tunisian TV over the weekend that she was confident Coventry was well prepared for the London games after overcoming a dislocated knee in March and pneumonia in May.
Assessing Coventry’s potential to win medals, Bracken said: “I think she can, I don’t know if she will. I think she is capable of it. She is more mature now, she is smarter.”
In her diary of their preparations from Tunis, Bracken said Kirsty was “an exciting athlete to work with because she is genuinely engaged in the coaching experience.”
She added: “I love when an athlete is insightful and confident, in themselves and their coach, to give valuable feedback. In short, she is an active participant in her coaching.”
She said they had made “significant strides” with Kirsty’s backstroke start “by repetition, analysing film and just plain old talking and tweaking”.
They had also focused on “power and explosiveness”.
Kirsty was leaving the training pool “smiling, confident and excited about what is to come”, she added.
Coventry was taught how to swim by her parents in Harare aged just 18 months, and at age six she was in the national junior team.
She told Around the Rings
: “I loved being in the water, I loved hanging out with my friends, and it was just a lot of fun for me. So that’s pretty much where I started. And then it just got more fun as a sport as I got older.
“I watched a couple older swimmers go over to the states on scholarships and do really well and get a great education while still swimming, and that was just something I always wanted to do. When the opportunity came about, I chose to go to Auburn University.”
It was at Auburn University that she sharpened her skills before winning the hearts of the nation with her three-medal haul in Athens in 2004, a feat she repeated at the 2008 games in Beijing when she won three silver medals and one gold.
She was mobbed by thousands when she returned home and described by President Robert Mugabe as a “golden girl”. Mugabe gave her US$100,000 and a diplomatic passport.
In London, Kirsty says she would be happy just to be on the podium.
“Obviously I would love to get on to the podium on all three events. We’ll just see how it goes. Like I said, I’m very excited and honoured to be going to my fourth Olympic games. I’ve qualified in the events that I love to swim. You know I haven’t had the perfect lead-up to the games.
“I dislocated my knee in the end of March, and then I got pneumonia in the middle of May so I’ve definitely had to overcome a few hurdles. But hopefully that’s made me stronger. It’s going to be more meaningful just being at the Olympics, and being able to be competitive with the other swimmers is really what I’m looking for.”
KIRSTY'S LONDON 2012 EVENTS
Friday, July 27, 2012: London 2012 Olympics Opening Ceremony at Olympic Stadium
Sunday, July 29, 2012 (10:00am) at Aquatics Centre, Olympic Park: 100m Backstroke Heats
Sunday, July 29, 2012 (8:50pm) at Aquatics Centre, Olympic Park: 100m Backstroke Semi-Finals
Monday, July 30, 2012 (10:45am) at Aquatics Centre, Olympic Park: 200 Individual Medley Heats
Monday, July 30, 2012 (7:45pm) at Aquatics Centre, Olympic Park: 100m Backstroke Finals
Monday, July 30, 2012 (8:50pm) at Aquatics Centre, Olympic Park: 200 Individual Medley Semi-Finals
Tuesday, July 31, 2012 (8:35pm) at Aquatics Centre, Olympic Park: 200 Individual Medley Finals
Thursday, August 2, 2012 (11:45am) at Aquatics Centre, Olympic Park: 200m Backstroke Heats
Thursday, August 2, 2012 (7:50pm) at Aquatics Centre, Olympic Park: 200m Backstroke Semi-Finals
Friday, August 3, 2012 (7:30pm) at Aquatics Centre, Olympic Park: 200m Backstroke Finals
Sunday, August 12, 2012: London 2012 Olympics Closing Ceremony at Olympic Stadium
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