'National treasure' Coventry chasing Olympic record

Mon May 16, 2016 1:05am EDT
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By Mark Gleeson

CAPE TOWN (Reuters) - Kirsty Coventry could become the first female Olympian to win eight individual medals when she competes at the 2016 Games this summer, but recent doping scandals have made the Zimbabwe swimmer wonder if her races in Rio will be clean.

The 32-year-old, an athletes representative for the International Olympic Committee and World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), won gold, silver and bronze medals in 2004 and added a gold and three silvers in Beijing four years later.

After making her Olympic debut as a 16-year-old in Sydney, Coventry will be competing in her fifth successive Olympics in Rio after coming away empty-handed in London.

With world sport battling to overcome a series of doping scandals, Coventry said she was stunned when she learned about the extent of cheating going on.

"I used to say 'I know my sport is clean' but all the recent revelations from China and Russia make me unsure that the swimmer in the lane next to me is clean," she told Reuters in an interview.

"It makes me really sad, I had no idea about this level of doping in the past. I guess dopers are good at covering up and hiding.

"But all the revelations are good and it’s a very interesting time for sport and I’m proud to be part of the fight against doping.”

While Coventry says she is now driven by the chance to win that eighth Olympic medal, she did not realize she was on the brink of a record until competing in London four years ago.   Continued...

Kirsty Coventry of Zimbabwe swims in her women's 200m individual medley semi-final during the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Aquatics Centre July 30, 2012. REUTERS/David Gray