The Zimbabwe Olympic Committee are excited over the appointment of swimming icon Kirsty Coventry as chair of the International Olympic Committee Athletes' Commission on Monday. Coventry, who is also ZOC's vice president, replaces United States' ice hockey player Angela Ruggiero and becomes the body's third successive female leader.
"We are delighted and I think the most important thing is the fact that for all the work and achievements that Kirsty has done, in terms of winning seven medals representing Zimbabwe and representing Africa in swimming, this is an apt recognition for an athlete. And it shows there is life within the sport movement after competition," said ZOC boss Admire Masenda.
The Athletes' Commission was created in 1981 and its role is to make sure athletes' interests are protected. The Commission serves as a link between the athletes and the IOC. The Commission represents the athletes within the Olympic Movement and also upholds the rights and obligations of the athletes. And its members take part in the work of the main IOC working groups and commissions to provide the opinions of the athletes.
Masenda said it's important to note that Coventry takes over at a time the IOC is facing some difficult issues around doping. "We also appreciate as ZOC that it's not going to be an easy road for Kirsty because she takes over the position when the IOC is going through difficult issues, the doping issue with Russia.
"So she is representing the athletes who are now adversely affected, some of them who were not part of the thing. So she will need to manage that, so she goes in and has a major task ahead of her. But again it's an exciting time, the way she manages will also form part of a legacy," said Masenda.
He said the development will also be beneficial to the country although it may be limited since the country does not have many athletes competing at the Olympics.
"I think the only benefit that really comes out is we have to have the right level of athletes, I mean the numbers of athletes to participate in the Olympic movement.
"But there will be benefits because there will be programmes of training, programmes of trying to ensure that not just rights but athletes are looked after, or athletes are catered for. So the level of awareness of what is going on in the Olympic movement will increase and we will be able to glean from that and be able to hopefully pass on the benefits to local athletes.
"It's a difficult one, the issue is you should have more athletes who are in the Olympics and then you will see that the benefits become even greater because you have direct access to whatever they are doing.
"But us we are very limited and that becomes a problem. It's almost like in any sports... if you are operating at a low level lagging behind usually the benefits are difficult to get," Masenda said.
Coventry posted on her Twitter account yesterday expressing her commitment to represent athletes from across the world.
"I'm honoured that my IOC Athlete Commission team have entrusted me with leading them as their chairperson and I'm committed to continuing to represent athletes from around the World. Thank you," tweeted Coventry.
Tsitsi Masiyiwa, wife to Strive Masiyiwa, founder and executive chairman of Econet, also took to Twitter to congratulate Coventry, who is the Econet brand ambassador on her appointment.
"Congratulations @KirstyCoventry We are proud of you and wish you all success as you represent a special group of champions from all over the world - athletes. Enjoy the Games."