ZIMBABWE swimming icon Kirsty Coventry has urged families to support female students and give them opportunities that can help them realise their sporting potential. Coventry is the greatest Zimbabwean Olympian athlete.
"Women have done wonders for Zimbabwe. In 1980 the hockey team brought gold medals, in 2004 I also brought medals from Athens and then again in 2008," said Coventry.
"Zimbabwe Olympic medals have only been won by women.
"I am begging families not to look down on female students or sportswomen.
"I did my academics through swimming but I was not an A-student. I gained confidence through swimming and in the end I worked hard at school to achieve my goals.
"Swimming, or any other sport, can be a career and I am a good example.
"People should know that sport is a very powerful tool and a good example is when South Africa lifted the Rugby World Cup in 1995. It inspired many people and I feel the same should happen to Zimbabwean sport."
Coventry said Zimbabwe, for a small country with limited resources, has done considerably well on the world sporting stage.
"We, as a country, should be using the momentum we gain from achieving on the world stage but we don't seem to allow that train to continue running, we sit back and just expect things to happen on their own," said Coventry.
"We expect our athletes to achieve things on their own and then we take full credit for something we played no part in.
"When we write our O' Levels, or bar exams do we not work hard to achieve good results?
"When we are teaching our children do we not tell them that without hard work they will not achieve their dreams?
"So why do we, as adults, expect to do nothing and achieve everything?
"Without the right people and structures in place where our athletes can receive guidance, financial help and support, we as a country must not expect to compete on the world stage."
Coventry has just ended her countrywide tour dubbed "Inspiring Youths to become their own heroes".
The tour was sponsored by Econet Wireless, African Sun and Croco Motors and has seen the swimmer visiting a number of schools and interacting with over 12 000 children.
"My goal for this tour was to inspire at least one person to go out and achieve his /her dream," said Coventry.
"As a strong and successful woman I know that we, as women, can be true to ourselves and we can have it all.
"We can be a great mother, sister, daughter, CEO, doctor, and lawyer.
"We are capable of many things, we must allow ourselves and we must be allowed the opportunity to show just what we are made of." Coventry ended her tour last week that saw her touring all the 10 provinces in a journey that took her 15 days to complete.