Meet Unathi, swimming’s next Kirsty Coventry

Shelly Guni

NINE-YEAR old Unathi Chibanda underlined her growing status as one of the hottest emerging swimmers in the country when she surpassed expectations by bagging seven gold medals at the Junior Swimming Championships in Bulawayo recently.

The Twin Rivers pupil who holds national 50m record and has bagged over 40 medals in three years that she has been competing showed no signs of inferiority complex against her more superior counterparts.

This has earned her revered comparisons to legendary Olympian and current Minister of Sports Kirsty Coventry.

It was certainly a fitting achievement for the nine-year old in her short but promising career to earn praises from many neutrals, who are already tipping her to become the next big thing to hit the swimming pool.

Unathi’s exploits under water have earned her comparisons with legendary swimmer Kirsty Coventry

“I was really nervous going into the championships, but I managed to bag seven medals,” she says.

“I came out tops in all the races that I competed in. I was really excited and I’m looking forward to more wins in my career.”

Chibanda’s swimming journey dates back to when she was four years.

“I did not like swimming at first but my mother forced me into it. I grew into it and I started loving swimming.

“Five months after that, I started enjoying the sport and that was it.”

When she was in grade 0, she started competing with athletes in grade seven.

Asked how she pumps herself before the game, Chibanda says:

“I normally sing a song which keeps me motivated.

“I did compete in the senior nationals.  It was a great experience. And it has actually helped me as I now have higher expectations and I believe in myself more.

Chibanda’s mother, Chantelle said she didn’t expect to see her daughter achieving what she has now.

“Swimming is a life skill so I just said to myself why can’t let me take my children for swimming and that’s how it started.

“And whenever, Unathi would get into the water she would cry. She would come out with her whole head dry.”

“Her swimming journey has been interesting. She is a natural and has come a long way.

“We are expecting her to go to the next Olympics. The way that she has been swimming throughout the year is evident that she is meant to be in the water”

“I hope she will get a scholarship. You know swimming is not a cheap sport. There a lot of money that needs to be pumped out.

“One thing I would actually encourage for schools. In, Zimbabwe to give girls scholarships but when it comes to the boys child.”

The girls can do it too. They also the same chances the girls would

“We are in too deep now there is no going back. As long as we can afford it we won’t,”

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