Kirsty Coventry Racing for One More Olympic Swim on Thursday


In 2016, American Michael Phelps is swimming his 5th and final Olympic Games, but he’s not the only record-setting swimmer this week who is ending their career at a 5th Olympic Games.

Zimbabwe’s Kirsty Coventry, who qualified 9th for the semi-finals of the women’s 200 backstroke, will swim on Thursday evening. In the swim, she’ll be racing to extend her career for one more day at least. Coventry hasn’t specifically said that she’d retire after Rio, but in an interview in May with Reuters, she said that only a kneecap injury four months before the 2012 Olympics was the only thing that pushed her to try for Rio.

“London should have been my last Olympics if things had gone differently and I’d not dislocated my knee four months before,” Coventry said. “When I made the decision to carry on swimming after London, Rio was to be the last one, and now that I’m fit and back to being in good shape and having consistency in my training, I’m thinking maybe I’ll keep going for a year afterwards.”

Regardless, those comments don’t give hope that she’ll be back for Tokyo, meaning she’s swimming for one last chance at a historic Olympic medal.

She’s already the most decorated African Olympian in history – belying the continent’s reputation as the best distance runners in the world.

She’s also tied with Hungarian legend Krisztina Egerszegi with 7 individual Olympic medals – the most ever by an individual female swimmer.

Olympic Games
Gold medal – first place 2004 Athens 200 m backstroke
Gold medal – first place 2008 Beijing 200 m backstroke
Silver medal – second place 2004 Athens 100 m backstroke
Silver medal – second place 2008 Beijing 100 m backstroke
Silver medal – second place 2008 Beijing 200 m medley
Silver medal – second place 2008 Beijing 400 m medley
Bronze medal – third place 2004 Athens 200 m medley

Both of Coventry’s Olympic golds have come in her best event and her favorite event, the 200 backstroke (coincidentally, also Egerszegi’s primary event).

Injury kept her from a 200 back three-peat in 2012, but now she’s back in Rio hoping to win one last medal in that event.

Coventry didn’t make any finals, and was only 14th in the 200 back, at the World Championships last year. She was three-and-a-half seconds away from a medal, in fact, in this: her last Olympic event.

The door is open, however. Hungary’s newest superstar Katinka Hosszu is on-fire, and is a good bet to claim a medal, but the other two podium placers from last year’s World Championships, Missy Franklin and Emily Seebohm, aren’t having good meets and finished in 11th and 10th place, respectively, in prelims.

Coventry swam a 2:08.91 in the morning heats, which is a second-and-a-half better than she was in Kazan last year in the opening round.

Coventry has been a tireless fighter of doping – not only with her words, but with her commitment. She serves on the World Anti-Doping Agency’s Athlete Committee. Despite swimming in a country without a huge competitive swimming scene, Coventry has been hailed as a “hope” for a nation that is politically divided and economically destitute.

If you don’t have a rooting interest in the semi-finals of the 200 back, Coventry would be a worthy choice of your efforts as she swims for the chance at one last race.

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Great career. Great leader. Wish her well.


She is a legend. A name long remembered and to be remembered.

Steve Nolan

She also handed out awards for the women’s 200 fly. Dunno how often swimmers actually competing in the meet do that.

About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder of He first got his feet wet by building The Swimmers' Circle beginning in January 2010, and now comes to SwimSwam to use that experience and help build a new leader in the sport of swimming. Aside from his life on the InterWet, …

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