Zimbabwe’s first black swimmer makes Olympics debut

 

PHILLIMON MHLANGA

Teenage swimming sensation, Donata Katai, will make her debut Sunday competing in the women’s 100 metres (m) backstroke event at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games in Japan’s capital.

 

The 17-year-old Katai  will take to the pool for the heat event facing stiff competition from Kimberly Ince from Grenada and India’s Maana Patel at Tokyo Aquatics.

It is the first time in the history that a black swimmer has represented Zimbabwe at the Olympic Games.

 

Katai, now hopes to follow in the footsteps of Kirsty Coventry, who won seven swimming medals across the 2004 and 2008 Games, including two golds.

Coventry, who is now the Minister of  Youth, Sport,Arts and Recreation, is not only Zimbabwe’s most successful swimmer but also  Africa’s most decorated Olympian.

Interestingly, Coventry was also 17 when she swam at her first Olympics in 2000.

Coventry, however, did not win a medal on her debut at the Olympics, but returned four years later to claim a gold, a silver and bronze and start that record breaking haul for Africa.

‘I think its going to be like sort of a movie. Its going to be unreal. Being around a lot of people I watch on TV, look up to in a way, then be right there in front of me, being able to watch them,”Katai said.

 

She was introduced to the water  at the age of six.

But, realized she was pretty good in the sport when she was eight

She represented Zimbabwe in several competitions including FINA Junior World Championships and the Africa Junior Championships in 2019. She won gold medals in the 50m backstroke and 50m butterfly.

The same year, she broke Coventry’s longstanding 100m backstroke national youth record.

That’s the event she is competing in at the Tokyo Games.

Her coach at Sharks swimming club, Kathy Lobb is proud of Katai. She said competing at the  Olympic Games, the world’s biggest sporting showpiece,  will benefit Katai.

“Its every coach’s dream to have a swimmer coming through and taking them to the Olympics. Apart from backstroke, she has a good butterfly as well.”

Lobb added: “The preparation was very difficult. But, was just trying to get the best out of it. I am not making excuses. She is going in the best conditions she could be. She will give it her all.”

 

“It’s a fantastic opportunity to look, listen and learn to watch the world’s top swimmers in action and benefit from the whole experience. It’s the first stage in what we hope will be a long and fruitful career in swimming.”

Katai is representing the country together with United States-based Peter Wetzlar in swimming. Wetzlar, however,is competing in 100m freestyle.

At the Tokyo Games, Zimbabwe is also being represented by rower Peter Purcell-Gilpin, golfer Scott Vincent and sprinter Ngoni Makusha.

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