Kirsty Coventry: Respected and Admired

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Swimmer Kirsty Coventry is one Zimbabwe’s most respected and admired sportspeople. She has won a record seven Olympic Games medals. The medals include two golds, four silvers and one bronze.

She won the two gold medals at the last two Olympics in Athens, Greece, in 2004, and Beijing, China, in 2008 in the women's 200m backstroke.

Coventry has been treated like a heroine by fellow Zimbabweans for raising Zimbabwe’s flag high despite negative political publicity that the country has received. She has been praised for managing to unite a divided nation as people rejoiced her victory.

With all her achievements one would think that Coventry was one of the richest sportspeople in the country, driving top of the range cars and living a lavish lifestyle.
But actually, she lives a very humble life!

According to an interview in the Herald in February 2010, Coventry revealed that though she might be famous she has gained little fortune from the sport.
Coventry said: “I know that most people (in Zimbabwe) think that I've made a lot of money through my exploits in the pool, but that's not the case.”

“I haven't made a lot of money because swimming has no money. In fact, there is very little money in swimming and most (world-class) swimmers don't earn much when competing at major international competitions.”

“It's sad because swimming is such a lovely sport. So, I can't say I am one of the richest sportspeople in Zimbabwe.”

When Coventry won her second gold medal at the 2008 Beijing Games, she received a cash gift of US$100 000 from President Robert Mugabe for the remarkable achievement. Coventry attributes her success to her parents, Lyn and Rob, her American coach Kim Brackin and the Zimbabwe Olympic Committee.

Now she is a local ambassador for a South African-based charity organisation, Lapdesk, which helps to source school lap-desks for underprivileged children in rural areas. Its patron is Nobel Peace Prizewinner Archbishop Desmond Tutu. In Zimbabwe Coventry has done quite a number of charity events, some of which involve training school children from disadvantaged communities how to swim.

In contrast to Coventry, top Zimbabwean tennis star Cara Black is reported to have made US$6 233 070 in career prize money since she turned professional in January 1998.

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