As expected, golden girl Kirsty Coventry will lead Zimbabwe’s 13-member Olympic team in China next month.
Coventry — who scooped three medals -a gold, silver and a bronze- at the 2004 Games in Athens, Greece — will once again spearhead the country’s medal hunt.
Her Athens hat trick ended Zimbabwe’s 24-year drought for any kind of Olympic medal, stretching back to the gold medal performance by the 1980 women’s field hockey team.
The 25-year-old United States-based Coventry will contest in four categories, meaning she can actually better her Athens record by hauling four medals in Beijing. Keeping her company in the team is fellow female and US-based swimmer, Heather Brand.
The two friends and training partners will be based in Osaka, Japan, ahead of the Games for a pre-tournament training camp organised by ZOC.
As largely expected, athletics provides the biggest contingent. The major hopefuls are sprinters Brian Dzingai (200m), Talkmore Nyongani and Lewis Banda (both 400m). The middle and long distance runners are Cuthbert Nyasango and Mike Fokorani as well as female compatriot Tabitha Tsatsa. At 36, Tsatsa is the oldest member of the team.
Completing the athletics field is 21-year-old long-jumper, US-based Ngoni Makusha from whom so much is expected of on his maiden Olympics appearance.
Zimbabwe female tennis ace Cara Black, routinely claimed her place in the team as a tripartite qualifier. But then Black, a renowned specialist on the international circuit with quite a few Grand Slams under her belt, will have to make-do as a singles contender because no other female Zimbabwean tennis player made the grade to be able to partner the 29-year-old in Beijing. The surprise inclusion was, perhaps, that of little-known rower Elana Hill, who will contest in the W1X singles. The South Africa-based emerging star is the “baby” of the team at 20.
The most notable casualty was shooting champion Mike Nicholson, who did not gun the required shoots in his qualification competitions. But team chef de mission, Thabani Gonye, said no one who could possibly have qualified for the team was left out.
The team will be accompanied by a supporting staff of 13.