Donata Katai Set To Be Zimbabwe's First Black Swimmer At The Olympics

The Tokyo Olympics are set to be special occasion for Zimbabwe although it only has 5 athletes who qualified to represent the nation. At just 17 years of age Donata Katai is set to become the first black Zimbabwean swimmer to compete at the Olympic Games. Donata Katai won gold medals in the 50-meter and 100-meter backstroke at the 2019 African Junior Championships in Tunisia. The same year, she broke Coventry’s longstanding 100-meter backstroke national youth record. That’s the event she’ll also be competing in at the Tokyo Games.

Donata Katai and rowing sensation Peter Purcell-Gilpin are set to share the honour of serving as flag bearers at the opening ceremony for the Tokyo Olympics. This will make the swimmer Zimbabwe's youngest ever flag bearer at the Olympic games.

According to Sports Rifle the Gateway High School student was one of the two swimmers that were allocated the universality slots from the International Swimming Federation (Fina) by the Zimbabwe Aquatic Union. Responding to the question of whether she alwayyhad a dream of going to the Olympics Katai said: 

The longer I started swimming the less and less I was like okay it’s possible. But then now that I have grown older I have seen that I am pretty close to doing that. So it’s like I have kind of had an up and down journey with trying to go to the Olympics with really high dream. And being able to participate in the games is such an honour.

Talking to AP News on diversity in the sport of swimming in Zimbabwe as compared to America Katai said:

There’s a lot of people of color that take part in the sport (in Zimbabwe), it’s kind of becoming normal for me in Zimbabwe... I feel like we swim in very different environments because in America there are not many people of color that swim. In Zimbabwe, the majority of people that swim at the moment are people of color. I guess her (Simone Manuel’s) story would be very different from mine.

Katai has been swimming since the age of 6 and by 8 she had attracted the attention of some of the country's top swimmers. Kirsty Coventry who Katai regards as an inspiration was also 17 when she swam at her first Olympics in 2000. She didn’t come with a medal, but she returned to the games four years later to earn a gold, a silver and a bronze. A record-breaking haul for Africa that would eventually see her winning the award of African swimmer of the millennium.

Sources: AP NewsSports Rifle

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