Zimbabwean artistic gymnast, Alexandra Govere, known as the Cheetah, made history at the recent All Africa Games held September 9th-19th, 1999 in South Africa. The twelve year old gymnast, the youngest member of the 162 strong Zimbabwe 1999 All Africa Games Team is Zimbabwe's first Black female athlete to represent that country as an artistic gymnast.
After nearly 20 years of independence, one must ask 'what took so long?' The fragile looking gymnast demonstrated that this was a young lady who could be one of Africa's great future athletes as she placed first on the balance beam for her country and 17th on the balance beam of all the gymnasts from the African continent at the Games. This was Govere's first appearance on the African gymnastics circuit and undoubtedly there will be many more.
Govere first became interested in gymnastics when she watched the 1992 Olympics on television. Not having access to a gym at the time, she first trained at home vaulting over coach pillows, using strips of tape on the floor to mark out a beam, tumbling on the grass, and using tree branches as bars. Prior to her first competition at the age of six, the young gymnast never worked a piece of real gymnastics apparatus.
The gymnast is now training in the United States and made the trip to Johannesburg to participate in the Games. Govere stated that because of a knee problem that she is unable to train for 2 or 3 months. After recovery Govere is considering trying out rhythmic gymnastics as it would allow her to continue with her ballet studies. Govere has trained for 7 years under a Russian ballet syllabus and has been offered training places in some of USA's top ballet schools. However, because of the rising training and competition cost (it cost around USA $6,000 for her to participate in the All Africa Games)she may not be able to continue in gymnastics at this level. Govere is hoping to find some sponsors so that she can continue to train and compete. She hopes to attend the African championships in 2001, the Commonwealth Games in 2002, and the Worlds in 2003 where she hopes to qualify for the 2004 Olympics.
Govere was nicknamed 'Cheetah' by her team mates because her sleek and elegant style is like that of an African cheetah. It has been recently suggested that her developing style is similar to that of Svetlana Boguinskaia's.
Govere would like in the future to help change the accessibility of gymnastics in Zimbabwe, so that all children get a chance to try the sport. Govere states "When I think of the girls in my village, Muchada village, I wonder when they will get a chance. These girls are so elegant in stature that they can carry large tins of water on their heads without the aid of their hands and not spill a drop. They are so strong they can hoe fields on and off all day. They may walk or jog 12 and more kilometer a day one way to go to school. When you live in the village you become flexible, agile, strong, physically fit, and you eat healthy food you grow yourself. Most people in Zimbabwe live in the villages. Given the opportunity, training and equipment, I would think many future gymnastics stars will come from Africa, especially the African villages."
Besides being a young gymnast with enormous athletic potential, Govere a ninth grader is an honor roll student. Govere wishes to study astrophysics or veterinary science when she enters the university in a few years time. She hopes to attend a university with a strong gymnastics and ballet program so she can continue training as a gymnast and dancer as well. Govere multi-ethnic background is a symbol of hope for the unity of Africans of all ethnic groups. Anyone wishing to contact Govere can do so at: firstname.lastname@example.org