Sunday, January 27, 2013

The day the Olympics came to Mutare!

Kirsty Coventry is a legend.

Zimbabwe has produced many world class sportsmen & women - many of whom have left the country to compete in other lands, and yet Kirsty has, throughout her very distinguished swimming career, remained proudly Zimbabwean. She is the holder of 7 Olympic medals (1 bronze, 4 silver, 2 gold), and she has been the holder of swimming World Records on no less than 4 occasions - for the 200m backstroke (twice), the short-course 400m Individual Medley, and the 100m backstroke.

She won her Olympic medals in Athens in 2004, and in Beijing in 2008 - and she even made it into two finals in the 2012 London Olympics. She has also won a host of other titles, medals and records, and for the young swimmers in Zimbabwe, she is truly an icon. Indeed, there are very few Zimbabweans - many of whom cannot swim at all, who do not hold her in the highest regard.

So there was great excitement among the local kids when it was announced that Kirsty would be coming to Mutare to hold swimming clinics.

Today we took Courtney to the clinic (Dayna would have loved to be there too, but she had committed to playing in the Provincial Squash Championships in Harare, and did not come home this week-end). Here are a few pics of the day that the Olympics came to Mutare.......

Courtney and Kirsty. Despite incessant requests for photos, Kirsty posed with very good grace for pics with the kids - this is my youngest daughter Courtney....... with an Olympic Champion!

The kids were shown things, and then required to swim a width of the pool as instructed. Kirsty spent most of the time in the water with them, and when there was a drill which was slightly more complicated, she would swim it herself - showing the kids exactly what she wanted.

It was a fairly long day - we arrived at the pool at 08.30am, and left around 13.30pm - and during the whole time that we were there, Kirsty had the kids spell-bound. Throughout the day, and despite her many achievements, she showed great humility coupled with a fantastic sense of humor. Just look at the attention they paid her every word..... (with Courtney in pink and black cap)

At the end of the session - Kirsty showed the kids her gold medal from the Beijing Olympics - and explained the significance of the engravings and materials (in the case of Beijing - jade) incorporated into the medals. She also emphasized the importance of sportsmanship and setting goals for yourself. Kirsty has been elected to the IOC Athletes Commission - a position which she will hold for the next 8 years, and she is a true ambassador for swimming, sport, and the Olympic movement.

Then there were the coaches.

As Kirsty was in the water coaching the children, our local swimming coaches watched from the side, taking notes. It was very funny to see them all subconsciously mimicking the action in the pool - and an awful lot of "air swimming" went on behind her back! This photo was taken as Kirsty (in the pool with her back to the camera) was explaining the arm movements during the butterfly stroke - and everyone seemed to grasp the idea of both arms moving in perfect synchronization ....except for Anne White, who only half understood!

In fact - the coaches were so very unintentionally funny, that I shall devote the blog tomorrow entirely to their antics! If you are one of the ladies pictured above - may I suggest you skip tomorrow's blog?

Have a nice day one and all!

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