BY DANIEL NHAKANISO
ZIMBABWE’s swimming starlet Donata Katai might have failed to reach the semifinals, but showed why many believe she is destined for greatness after clocking a new personal best time in the heats of the women’s 100 backstroke at the Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan, yesterday.
The 17-year-old rising star, who made history by becoming the country’s first black swimmer to compete at the Olympic Games, finished first in her heat at the Olympic Aquatics Centre in 1:02.73, easily beating her previous time of 1:05.04.
Katai was unstoppable as she finished ahead of India’s Maana Patel and Grenada’s Kimberly Ince.
The 21-year-old Patel settled for second in 1.05.20, while Ince (16) (1:10.24) finished third in the slowest heat 1.
Although Katai finished first in her heat, her new personal best time was not fast enough to qualify for the semi-finals which were reserved for the top 16 swimmers from the heats.
Overall, the Gateway High School pupil finished 34th out of 43 swimmers, who competed in the women’s 100m backstroke, while two swimmers did not start.
However, despite her failure to reach the semis, Katai proved why she was a deserved recipient of the universality entry slot which the country received from the Federation of International Swimming (Fina).
Her debut performance at the Olympic Games was made more remarkable by the fact that she did not have an opportunity to compete in international competitions ahead of the trip to Tokyo due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Katai’s personal best time in the 100m women’s backstroke capped off a memorable Olympic debut for her. She was one of Zimbabwe’s flag bearers together with rower Peter Purcell-Gilpin during the opening ceremony on Friday.
Katai will now shift her attention to the Paris 2024 Olympic Games where she will be hoping to make a bigger impact and emulate her role model, Kirsty Coventry, who is now the country’s Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation minister.
- Follow Daniel on Twitter @danielnhakaniso