Zimbabwe’s “Golden Girl”, Kirsty Coventry was awarded US$100,000 by Robert Mugabe for her spectacular performance at the Beijing 2008 Olympics. She won a gold medal and broke the world record in the women’s 200 meters backstroke and also won three silvers in the 400m individual medley, 100m backstroke and 200m individual medley. The $100,000 is double the $50,000 “pocket money” that she was given by Mugabe on her return from the 2004 Athens Olympics.
The cash award has sparked a bit of controversy because of the country’s current economic situation and for few because of the fact that she is white and based in the United States. Other members of the Zimbabwe Olympic team were given between US$2,000 and US$10,000 each.
The way I see it, she is a Zimbabwe citizen that regardless of her skin colour chooses to represent the nation of her birth at an international level. Her efforts at the Beijing Games took a lot of hard work and at the times she was in the spotlight Zimbabwe was mentioned in a positive manner. As far the cash award goes, yes the country is going through economic hardship but athletes who are representing the country don’t get there just like that. It takes a lot of hard work and training that all comes at a cost. If anything it should also serve to encourage young aspiring Zimbabwe athletes to work towards achieving such goals. At least the money is going to a good use and not towards funding violence or anything else untoward.
I do however wish Mugabe had extended the same kind of courtesy to the countless numbers of white Zimbabweans who did a lot for the country and pretty much lost their livelihoods’ at his hands.