FOLLOWING her appointment as chef-de-mission for the 2018 Youth Olympic Games (YOG) in Buenos Aires, Argentina, swimming icon Kirsty Coventry has said the event is a stepping stone to identify potential Olympians.
The Zimbabwe Olympic Committee recently announced the appointment of Coventry to lead Team Zimbabwe for the Third Summer Youth Olympic Games in Argentina next year. "That's a huge honour for me. I am very excited to have been awarded that position.
"I am excited to get to work on that, to start talking to the different potential athletes that we have that will be going. And hopefully to encourage them and inspire them. I think the Youth Olympic Games is a very unique platform where, yes everyone wants to do well, but also it's about learning about each other's culture and diversity and acceptance and I think that's very important.
"And for us as Zimbabwe, it gives us a great stepping stone to identify potential Olympians that we will have in the future," said Coventry. The seven-time Olympic medallist said her appointment gives her the opportunity to also share her own experiences with the young athletes.
The 33-year-old made her maiden appearance at the Olympic Games as a teenager in 2000 and competed in her fifth Olympic Games last year in Rio de Janeiro before retiring from competitive swimming.
"I think with regards to interacting with the athletes, it will be a huge advantage because hopefully they will even be able to really know that I understand what they are going through. The nerves, the excitement, balancing it all out, training and the preparation.
"But also from an administrative side, being able to push for the things that I believe the athletes will need in order to be the most prepared for them to achieve their goals. So I think those two things will be really good."
Coventry was recently elected one of the two vice-president for the National Olympic Committee. She noted the importance of support for the young athletes without putting too much pressure on them if they are to reach full potential. I think for the Youth Olympic Games, it's all about going and preparing yourself to the best of your ability so that you can show those abilities off at a very high level of competition.
"But I think what we have to try and not do is to put too much pressure on them by saying if you go to the Youth Olympic Games, you are definitely going to the Olympics and then you might win them, no because that might seem very overwhelming for an athlete.
"So trying to just support them as best we can and get them the most prepared for the Youth Olympic Games to achieve their goals there and then after that to have the conversation with them about the future in 2020 and 2024," said Coventry.
The Youth Olympic Games were launched in 2010 in Singapore as a platform for young athletes to compete at the highest level in sport.