London — KIRSTY Coventry's dreams of a golden hat-trick in the Olympic Games women's 200m back-stroke went up in smoke in the blink of an eye when she finished a disappointing sixth in last night's final at the Aquatics Complex.
The 28-year-old Zimbabwean surrendered her Olympic women's 200m back-stroke swimming title, which she won at the last two Olympic Games, meekly when she came sixth in a slow time of 2:08.18.
The gold medal in yesterday's women's 200m backstroke event went to Missy Flanklin of the United States in a new World and Olympic Games record of 2:04.06.
The silver medal was picked up by Russia's Anastasia Zueva who clocked 2:05.92 while American Elizabeth Beisel settled for the bronze medal when coming third in 2:06.55.
Great Britain's Elizabeth Simmonds was placed fourth in 2:07.26, touching the wall ahead of Australia's Meagen Nay who clocked 2:07.43 as she came home ahead of Zimbabwe's Coventry.
And it's no secret that Coventry was left devastated after she failed to defend her Olympic women's 200m backstroke title last night and she sure must be considering retiring now, paving the way to the new generation which includes last night's gold medallist Franklin, who is only 17-years-old.
Coventry was left searching for answers after another disappointing outing last night.
Asked on how she felt after coming in sixth place in an event she has won in the last two Olympic Games, Coventry said: "'Disappointed, I definitely would have liked to have medalled, but it was awesome to be in the final and I feel really proud of myself. I have finished in the top eight in the world. I am sad that I am not on the podium.
On whether she is going to continue in the sport and what she intends to do next, Coventy said: "Iam going home after this to set up a foundation for sport and youth and I am going to focus on life after sport.
And on how she feels about Franklin breaking her world record she said: '"World records are there to be broken, it means that women's swimming is getting better and I am very happy to be able to congratulate her."
Coventry qualified for last night's 200m backstroke final with a time of 2:08.32 to pull through to the final as the sixth fastest qualifier and she was banking on the unwavering support of her hordes of followers back home in Zimbabwe and across Africa to do well in last night's final.
Before competing in last night's final, Coventry sent a number of messages on Twitter, asking for everyone to rally behind her.
She wrote: '"200 Backstroke finals at 7:30pm London time. Come on Africa, I want to hear you roar!"
Coventry also thanked her supporters for "pushing" her during Thursday night's semis, saying on Twitter: "I could hear humming under water, it was getting louder. I knew right away that it was all of your shouting and support. Thank u!"
And in last night's final, she was placed in lane seven and she found the going tough as she was nowhere near the top three in the opening 150 metres of the race.
Coventry tried without success to push hard in the last 50 metres but American Franklin was already on her to smashing both the Zimbabwean's World and Olympic records in the women's 200m backstroke.
Coventry's failure to be placed in the top three last night saw the Zimbabwean failing to get a podium place for the first time at the Olympics since her heroic achievement at the 2004 Athens Games where she emerged with a full set of medals -- one gold, one silver and one bronze.
She followed this up by winning four more medals -- one gold and three silvers -- at the next Games in Beijing, China, four years later to become the most decorated Zimbabwean athlete in the history of the Olympic Games.
And Coventry arrived at the 2012 London Games hoping to add one or two more medals to this haul when she entered for three events -- the 100m backstroe, 200m individual medley and the 200m backstroke -- at these Games.
She was also looking at re-writing the history books by winning the women's 200m backstroke title at the Olympics for the third time in a row.
This could have seen Coventry becoming only the second representative from Africa, male or female, to win three Olympic gold medals. In athletics, Kenenisa Bekele of Ethiopia, a long-distance runner, has won three Olympic gold medals.
But Coventry left the scene at the London Games empty-handed after failing to land a medal of any colour in the three events that she took part in.
This also left Team Zimbabwe still without a medal at the on-going London Olympic Games which entered its first week yesterday.
Coventry is taking no further part at these Games and it is now left to three marathon runners Wirimayi Juwawo, Cutbert Nyasango and Sharon Tavengwa, and triathlete Chris Felgate to salvage something for Team Zimbabwe at the London Games.
Tavengwa will take part in the women's marathon on Sunday while Felgate will be in action in the men's triathlon next Tuesday.
Juwawo and Nyasango will only enter the fray at the London Games on the last day of these Games on August 12 when they take part in the men's marathon event.