By Innocent Kurira
Zimbabwe swimming sensation Donata Katai gave a good account of herself by winning her heat in the women’s 100m backstroke in the Olympic Games at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre in Japan yesterday despite failing to qualify for the semi-finals.
Katai came first in Heat 1 in a personal best time of 1 minute 02.73 seconds.
She beat her previous personal best time of 1 minute 5.6 seconds clocked in the same event at the Junior National Swimming Championships in Durban, South Africa, as a Form 3 pupil.
Her time was, however, not good enough to qualify her for the semi-finals, as she was placed 34th in the overall heats. Only the top 16 progressed to the semi-finals.
She won her heat ahead of India’s Patel Maana, who was second in 1 minute 05.20 seconds, while Ince Kimberly from Grenada was third in a time of 1:10:24.
The 17-year-old double African junior champion is the first-ever black Zimbabwean swimmer to compete in the Olympics.
She is also the reigning Zimbabwe Junior Sportswoman of the Year and has been swimming competitively since the age of six.
She won gold medals in the 50m and 100m backstroke in the 2019 African Junior Championships in Tunisia. That was the year she broke Kirsty Coventry’s longstanding 100m backstroke national youth record set in 1998, shaving off one-and-a-half seconds. Coventry, who is Africa’s most decorated Olympian, is now the country’s Minister of Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation.
Katai’s Olympic Games teammate Peter Wetzlar is competing in the 100m men’s freestyle. The Chronicle