Seventeen-year-old Donata Katai has become the first Black swimmer from Zimbabwe to represent her country in the Olympics. The Tokyo-bound athlete is heading into the games with a decorated resume that includes several African youth titles, ABC News reports.
Katai has also broken youth records set by Kirsty Coventry, who is regarded as Zimbabwe's most successful swimmer and one of Africa's most decorated Olympians. Coventry, who is white, won two Olympic gold medals for her country. Katai said more Black swimmers in Zimbabwe are now taking up the sport.
"There’s a lot of people of color that take part in the sport (in Zimbabwe),” she said. “It's kind of becoming normal for me in Zimbabwe."
Its a dream come true for our own Donata Katai (17) to be part of the crew representing Zim🇿🇼 at Tokyo 🇯🇵 2020 Olympics Games🏅. We wish her luck in her first appearance at the Olympics— Batcave Media (@Batcavemedia263) July 21, 2021
Donata Katai#swimming #olympics #2021 #zim #olympics2021 #OlympicGamesTokyo2020 pic.twitter.com/ODmF2bJ0SJ
Black swimmers around the world are also making breakthroughs. That includes Simone Manuel, who became the first Black female swimmer to earn an individual Olympic gold when she won the women’s 100-meter freestyle in Brazil in 2016, according to the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Museum.
Eric Moussambani of Equatorial Guinea became one of the first Black swimmers to compete in the Olympics when she took part in the 2000 Games in Sydney, Australia. Ethiopian swimmer Robel Kiros Habte also participated in the Rio Olympics in 2016 and finished last in the 100-meter freestyle competition, CNN reported.
Katai, who won gold medals in the 50-meter and 100-meter backstroke at the 2019 African Junior Championships in Tunisia, broke Coventry's 100-meter backstroke national youth record in the same year. The Zimbabwean athlete, who has been swimming competitively since the age of 6, will race in the 100-meter backstroke in Tokyo.
Katai's coach Kathy Lobb said she's proud to lead the young athlete to the Games.
“The best I’ve done is world champs and African Games. So for me this is the ultimate,” Lobb said. “Its every coach’s dream to have a swimmer coming through and taking them to the Olympics.”
The 17-year-old swimmer said going to the Olympics is "going to be like sort of a movie."
"It’s going to be unreal. Being around a lot of people I watch on TV, look up to in a way, then be right there in front of me, being able to watch them," she said. "I think it’s going to be an unreal experience for me, but definitely one I’m looking forward to.”