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All eyes on Katai


BY Magreth Ruzvidzo

ZIMBABWE swimming sensation Donata Katai has hogged the limelight as she prepares for her first Olympic Games experience in Tokyo, Japan, with a weight of expectation on her shoulders, but she is looking more at gaining experience.

Katai will get into competition tomorrow, where she will take part in the 100m backstroke.

The 17-year-old swimmer said preparations in Japan had gone on well, but admitted that in the run up, she could have had better practice had it not been of COVID-19.

“Preparing for the Games has been a different experience, but with the help of my coach, my family, school and Sharks Swimming Club, I believe we have tried our best under the difficult circumstances,” Katai said.

Her coach Kathy Lobb said it had not been an easy journey to prepare for this mega event due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We have basically had a nightmare of the last 18 months trying to keep Donata in training and motivated. There was the issue of finding a pool to train in as all pools closed down in lockdown, including the school pools where most clubs train,” Lobb said.

“Then came winter, and the issue of finding a heated pool we could use just added to the problems. We have been very lucky and grateful to two former swimming parents (John Burnett and Peter Lawson), who have allowed us to use pools in their gardens at home to keep us going.”

She added: “It has been a long lonely journey for Donata training on her own with just a clock and her coach for company. We were also not able to work on the smaller details prior to her departure such as starts, turns and finishes because the pools we were using didn’t have starting blocks or flags. These are being worked on in Tokyo prior to her race.”

Lobb also said although it wasn’t easy for Katai to strike a balance between training and her school work, the 17-year-old managed to perform well in her Ordinary Level.

Lobb is not expecting much from Katai, but the experience.

“I have no expectations for Donata, she is ranked 42 out of 43 swimmers in her event, so she is going for experience and development and to just do the best she can under the circumstances. We are looking forward to using this as a preparation for the next Olympics in Paris in 2024 by which time she will be stronger, faster and even better prepared for an Olympic Games,” she added.

Despite these challenges, Katai said she was delighted to be presented with such an opportunity to represent her country at this international event.

“I am honoured to represent my country and be able to gain as much experience as possible,” she said.

Katai will compete in the 100m backstroke, while her counterpart Peter Wetzlar will take part in the 100m freestyle.

Katai will be the first black swimmer to represent the country at the Olympics. Her other achievements so far includes being named the 2019 Junior Sportswoman of the Year at Zimbabwe Annual National Sports Awards and she also won gold medals in both the 50-metre and 100-metre backstroke in the 2019 African Junior Championships.

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