The Herald (Harare)

Zimbabwe: Kirsty Snares Gold in Paris

Photo: Kirsty Coventry/Facebook
Zimbabwe swimming superpower Kirsty Coventry receiving a heroin welcome. (File Photo)

KIRSTY Coventry showed that she still has what it takes to win more medals for Zimbabwe at the forthcoming London Olympic Games when she picked up two gold medals on the first day of the two-day 2012 Paris Open Swimming Championships in France on Friday night.

According to reports from Paris, Coventry and Yannick Agnel of France each earned double wins during the first night of the finals on Friday as Day One of the Paris Open featured several quick times from some of the top European and Australian swimmers in the world, in what may be their final competition before the London Olympics.

The 2012 London Olympic Games are set to run from July 27 to August 12 and Coventry will be out there to defend her women's 200m backstroke title which she first won at the Athens Games in Greece in 2004 before retaining it at the Beijing Games in China four years later.

And the 28-year-old Zimbabwean swimmer once again gave a strong indication that she will be the person to beat at the London Games when she walked away with two gold medals during the opening night of the Paris Open Swimming Championships on Friday.

Coventry first swept to victory in the 200m individual medley before winning her favourite 200m backstroke event. Reigning Olympic silver medalist Coventry looked strong in the women's 200IM, posting a time of 2:13.60 for the victory.

She has a bit to go to reach her silver-medal winning time of 2:08.59 from 2008 at the Beijing Games, but is close to her fastest time of 2012, a 2:12.65 from January.

Spain's Duane Da Rocha Marce hit the wall second in 2:15.29, while France's Lara Grangeon touched third in 2:16.18. Coventry won her second event of the evening in the women's 200m backstroke, the event in which she won Olympic gold in 2004 and 2008.

She had an incredible last 50m to surge past Anastasia Zueva of Russia and Spain's Da Rocha Marce and post a 2:10.10.

Zueva settled for second in 2:10.36, while Da Rocha Marce was third in 2:10.60.

Coventry's superb performances on Friday night will surely silence her critics who thought that at 28 "she was now over the hill" and might find it hard to walk away with any medal at the forthcoming London Olympic Games.

In Paris on Friday night, Coventry geared up her efforts in the distant 200M backstroke discipline and cemented her place on the podium for gold medal.

With her fascinating swim, Coventry managed to overpower the gruelling pace of Russia's Zueva in the final lap by producing a 2 minutes and 10.10 seconds effort. The gold medallist remained 0.26 seconds faster from Zueva, who tapped the finishing wall for silver medal by producing a time of 2:10.36.

The second position holder was trailed by Da Rocha Marce, who was 0.24 seconds slower from her foregoing finisher and tapped the wall with in 2:10.60 for bronze medal.

Similarly, Rocha Marce was chased by Alexianne Castel of France, who stayed 0.17 seconds apart and clocked an effort of 2 minutes and 10.77 seconds for fourth spot.

Fifth position of the discipline was secured by Jenny Mensing of Germany, who tapped the wall with in 2 minutes and 13.46 seconds.

Coventry also smothered all efforts of her challengers by seizing gold in the 200IM event.

Her notable efforts placed her considerably ahead of her strongest challenger and she faced no difficulty in snaring the gold medal of the event.

With her impeccable efforts, she enjoyed a lead of almost two body lengths over her immediate competitor and claimed gold medal of the event with the timing of 2:3.60. The champion was followed by Da Rocha Marce, who stayed 1.69 seconds slower and stepped on the medal rostrum for silver medal by submitting a time of 2:15.29. Third position of the discipline was secured by Lara Grangeon of France, who stayed nearly one second behind Rocha Marce and hit the finishing blockade with the timing of 2:16.18.

The bronze medallist was trailed by Alessia Polieri of Italy, who was 1.09 seconds apart and settled on the finishing wall as fourth best finisher with the timing of 2:17.27. Although Zimbabwe will send athletes in other disciplines such as rowing, triathlon and athletics, there is no doubting that Coventry remains the country's biggest medal hopeful.

Her showing in Paris on Friday night should certainly stand her in good stead for a treble of Olympic medals.

The final Team Zimbabwe for the 2012 London Olympic Games is expected to be named on Thursday with the first batch of athletes and officials scheduled to leave for the world's biggest sporting showpiece three days later. Seven athletes - swimmer Coventry, marathon runners Wirimayi Juwawo, Cutbert Nyasango and Sharon Tavengwa, triathlete Chris Felgate, and rowers Jamie Fraser-Mackenzie and Micheen Thornycroft - have already qualified to represent Zimbabwe at the London Games.

At the last Olympic Games in Beijing, China, in 2008, Zimbabwe were represented by a team of 13 athletes who returned home with four medals -one gold and three silvers - which were all won by the country's swimming icon Coventry.

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Zimbabwe swimming superpower Kirsty Coventry receiving a heroin welcome. (File Photo)

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