Coventry, who represented Zimbabwe, came into the 2009 World Championships as the defending Olympic gold medalist in the 200m backstroke. She also set the world record at the Games with a time of 2:05.24.
At the 2009 World Championships, Coventry qualified first out of the heats. She then qualified first out of the semifinals with a time of 2:06.72.
In the finals, Coventry went out under world-record pace, but Russia’s Anastasia Zuyeva began to creep up on her in the last 50 meters, as did the world record line. Coventry held on for the win, however, clipping her own world record with a time of 2:04.81. Zuyeva finished second, while the USA’s Elizabeth Beisel picked up the bronze.
Coventry’s mark in the 200 back was one of 43 world records that were set at the 2009 World Championships. However these records were a source of controversy given that the swimmers who broke them were wearing full body suits. In fact, shortly after, FINA banned full body suits.
Despite this suit controversy, Coventry’s swim was still historic. It marked the first time a woman dipped under the 2:05 barrier in the 200m backstroke. Her record stood until 2012, when Missy Franklin swam an impressive 2:04.06 in the Olympic final in London. Coventry was also in that final. She finished in sixth place.
Coventry’s world record at the 2009 World Championships was just one of her many accolades. She is the most decorated African Olympian in history, with a total of 7 Olympic medals, two of which are gold. She has also amassed a total of 8 World Championships medals throughout her career, including 3 gold.
Coventry competed in 5 Olympic Games. She retired from competitive swimming after the 2016 Olympics in Rio, but remains actively involved in the swimming world.