KIRSTY Coventry leads Zimbabwe’s small Olympic team at the games’ official opening ceremony in London later Friday knowing the next two weeks will, in the words of Usain Bolt, define her life.
Not since the struggle for independence from colonial rule has so much been expected from so few.
In truth, Coventry has already done more than her fair share for Zimbabwe. The swimmer won seven of Zimbabwe’s eight Olympic medals. The only other time Zimbabwe won a medal at the Olympics, a bronze, was at the Moscow games in 1980.
But Kirsty knows success can imprison, turn one into a victim of achievement. She might be four years older since Beijing, where she won gold and three silver medals, but memories of her heroics there, and Rome before that, are feeding new expectations.
On Thursday, she was a picture of calm as she surveyed the challenge ahead.
“I will be carrying the flag tomorrow. Holding it high, representing athletes, women, Zimbabwe and Africa,” she said on Twitter.
Kirsty will race in the 100 meter backstroke, the 200 meter backstroke, and the 200 individual medley. She won gold in the 200m backstroke at the 2004 and 2008 games and if she is to get a medal in London, any medal, much hope will be pinned on this event.
She said: “Obviously I would love to get on to the podium on all three events. I’ve qualified in the events that I love to swim.
“I’m very excited about going into my fourth Olympic games. I’m getting to do a sport that I loved for so many years and I’m really just looking forward to racing the best people in the world and seeing how far I can push my body.”
Zimbabwe has seven athletes in total at the London games. Joining Coventry in the introductory lap on Friday night will be marathon runners Cuthbert Nyasango, Sharon Tavengwa and Wirimayi Zhuwawo, triathlon ace Chris Felgate and rowers Jamie Frazer McKenzie and Micheen Thornycroft.
Sports Minister David Coltart, who is head of the Zimbabwe delegation, said on Friday: “The one benefit of being last on the alphabet of nations is that we always come in just before the home nation. Kirsty will be proudly carrying the Zimbabwean flag and leading the team.”
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