Zimbabwe’s “golden girl” and Sports Minister Coventry to speak at International Sports Innovation Conference

Zimbabwe’s “golden girl” and Sports Minister Coventry to speak at International Sports Innovation Conference

DUBAI - The General Secretariat of the Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Creative Sports Award, which is a Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Global Initiative, have announced the participation of Kirsty Coventry, an Olympic champion and Hon Minister of Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation of the Republic of Zimbabwe, in the International Sports Innovation Conference.

The Conference, which is being organised under the theme “Tolerance and Peace in Sport”, will be held on November 18 at the Hilton Al Habtoor and a number of top sports leaders from around the globe will be participating.

The only White in Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s list of Ministers, Coventry has been picked as one of the speakers for the International Sports Innovation Conference because she is one of the most influential figures in her homeland and the continent of Africa, having spent her life in promoting the noble values of tolerance and peace, and encouraging youth from different backgrounds, in Zimbabwe and across Africa, to embrace sports.

Coventry, 36, is Zimbabwe’s greatest sporting star with her seven swimming Olympic medals, which makes her Africa’s most decorated Olympic champion. She won the 200m backstroke gold at the 2004 Olympic Games and successfully defended her crown four years later at the 2008 Games with a time that was a new World Record for the 200m backstroke.

She later improved on that world record time in winning gold at the 2009 World Championship and held it until Missy Franklin of United States broke it at the 2012 Olympic Games.

Coventry has also won four Olympic silver medals – one at the 2004 Games and three at the 2008 Games – and a bronze (2014). At the World Championships, besides her 200m backstroke gold and 400m IM silver in 2009, she won the 100m and 200m backstroke gold and two silvers in 2005, and two more silvers in 2007.

Following her success at the 2008 Olympic Games, Robert Mugabe, the then Zimbabwe President, called her “a golden girl” and awarded her US$100,000 in cash, while Paul Chingoka, head of the Zimbabwe Olympic Committee, described her as “our national treasure”.

Coventry retired from swimming in 2016 after representing Zimbabwe at her fifth Olympics, having won the joint-most individual medals in women’s swimming in Olympic history alongside Krisztina Egerszegi of Hungary. She has won all but one of Zimbabwe’s Olympic medals.

A member of the International Olympic Committee’s Athletes’ Commission, the body that represents all Olympic athletes worldwide, since 2012, Coventry was elected its Chairperson in 2018. That same year, nine days shy of her 35th birthday, she was appointed Minister of Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation in Zimbabwe's 20-member Cabinet under President Emmerson Mnangagwa.

The General Secretariat of the MBR Creative Sports Award will be announcing the names of the other speakers in the coming days. A number of top Olympic and sports stars, heads of federations and decision-makers have confirmed their participation in the International Sports Innovation Conference.

The General Secretariat has also extended a special invitation to the UAE Swimming Federation and UAE swimmers to attend the Conference and meet Coventry, and benefit from her presentation at the conference.

The Conference sessions will be broadcast live via Dubai Sports Channel as well as through Dubai Sports Council’s social media accounts and the official website of the MBR Creative Sports Award to maximise the benefits of hosting the Conference and to provide an opportunity for athletes and officials from around the region and the world to benefit from presentations and discussions that will take place at the Conference.

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