Olympic swimming medallist Kirsty Coventry has fulfilled her dream of opening a swimming academy in Zimbabwe.
“The Kirsty Coventry Academy: Learn-to-Swim” main vision is to address the drowning problem in the country.
Globally, over half of all drowning deaths are among those aged under 25 years. The most people at risk of drowning are children of one to four years, males and people living close to or with access to open bodies of water.
The Kirsty Coventry Academy aims to save lives by preventing drowning, empowering individuals through sports training programmes and to uplift communities through their volunteer program that works within their sports programmes.
The mission of the academy will be training coaches, certifying schoolteachers to become swimming instructors. The newly-trained instructor will teach school children how to swim correctly.
The academy will also offer an Ambassador programme which will act as an awareness campaign to promote water-safety and drowning prevention program, as well as current health and education issues.
Harare News spoke to Coventry on what inspired her to start the swimming academy, she said, “The Kirsty Coventry Academy has taken about four years of idea generation, concept generation and planning to finally come to fruition.
We are launching our learn-to-swim program in January 2017 but this is not the only part of our Academy.
This is just the beginning. I think the inspiration to start the Academy came from a tour I did in 2013 where my husband and I visited schools in all ten provinces of Zimbabwe.
The tour was developed to ‘inspire our youth to become their own heroes’ but also give us a good understanding of some of the needs of our country and where I could provide opportunities through the experience and knowledge I have gained.”
“Our vision is to provide a national program, which includes other sports to provide all Zimbabweans with greater opportunities. Our aim is to save lives through our drowning prevention and awareness activities, empower individuals through our coaching and learn to play programs and uplift communities through our Ambassador Programme that focuses on health and education”, said Coventry.
The coaches at the academy will be teaching different age groups starting from parent and child (6 month–3 years old), pre-school (3-5 years old), school age (5–12 years old), and teen and adult (13+ years).The parent and child lessons will focus on building confidence in both parents and children. The pre-school lessons will focus on developing water safety skills and basic swimming skills.
The school ages, teen and adult lessons will focus on developing personal water safety skills, basic swimming skills and developing stroke technique. All lessons are thirty minutes and two lessons per week for a full school term are encouraged. Young adults can volunteer to become Kirsty Coventry Ambassadors.
Coventry was recently awarded the Female African Swimmer of the Year by the Swimming World after swimming her fifth and final Olympics Games in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Swimming World selects the top male and female swimmers from the following regions Africa, the Pacific Rim, Europe, America, and World.
Coventry holds seven Olympic medals, including back-to-back golds in the 200m backstroke in 2004 and 2008. Her seven medals are more than any other African has won in any sport; and she ties with Krisztina Egerszegi the Hungarian former world record holding swimmer for the most individual Olympics medals by any female swimmer in history.
After a successful 16-year career on the international stage, Coventry will serve as vice president of the International Surfing Association, replacing Australia’s Layne Beachley. Additionally, she will continue to be a member on the International Olympic Committee’s Athletes’ Commission.