Ellina Mhlanga |  4 months ago | sport
PROMISING Zimbabwean swimmer Donata Katai set a new personal best time in the women’s 100m backstroke at the ongoing Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games in Japan yesterday.
Competing at the Olympics for the first time, Katai came first in Heat One with a time of 1 minute 02.73 seconds as she made history by becoming the first Black Zimbabwean swimmer to compete at the global multi-sport showpiece.
Overall, she was placed number 34 out of 41 swimmers, from the six heats.
Going into the Tokyo Games, 17-year-old Katai was ranked 42nd of the 43 entries in the 100m backstroke.
The best 16 from yesterday’s heats progressed to the semi-finals.
Katai might have missed the top 16 to make the semi-finals but setting a new personal best of 1 minute 02.73 seconds as she took off some time for the previous one that stood at 1 minute 04.63 seconds was something positive and encouraging.
Katai was up against India’s Maana Patel, who was second with a time of 1 minute 05.20 seconds.
Kimberly Ince of Grenada was third in 1 minute 10.24 seconds.
Patel appeared the favourite to lead the heat with an entry time of 1 minute 03.77 seconds.
But Katai gave her best, with some fast strokes to take a fair lead from the early stages, which she was able to maintain and was the first to hit the wall to claim first position.
Katai is the first Black Zimbabwean swimmer to represent the country at the Olympic Games and will go down in the sport’s history books as she wrote her own piece of history yesterday.
On Friday, she was the flag bearer together with rower Peter Purcell-Gilpin at the Games official opening ceremony.
She is the youngest and only female athlete in Team Zimbabwe at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games where Zimbabwe are fielding five athletes in swimming, athletics, golf and rowing.
Hopefully, the rising swimming star can build from this experience and continue to make milestones, and possibly qualify for the next Olympics in Paris, France, in 2024.
The Sharks swimmer, has already shown her potential and with the right support, she should be on course to write some success stories for herself and for the country.
Katai’s coach at Sharks and former Zimbabwe Olympic Committee vice-president, Kathy Lobb, was impressed with the young swimmer’s performance yesterday.
“Very emotional right now. A fantastic swim with a PB by nearly two seconds and splits off a B Olympic qualifying time. All this after a nightmare 18 months. All we trained for – roll on Paris 2024,” said Lobb.
Another swimmer Peter Wetzlar is next for competition with his 100m freestyle event scheduled for tomorrow.
In rowing, Peter Purcell-Gilpin is out of contention for a medal after coming sixth in the quarter-finals yesterday. The top three progressed to semi-final A/B while those that finished outside the top three compete in semi-final C/D.
Purcell-Gilpin was sixth in 7 minutes 37.97 seconds.
The Zimbabwean rower had managed first position in repechage three with a time of 7 minutes 35.16 seconds to make the quarter-finals on Saturday.
He had missed direct qualification to the quarter-finals on Friday when he came fourth in heat three.
However, the competition proved tough yesterday morning when he finished bottom of quarter-final two, which was won by Denmark’s Sverri Nielsen in 7 minutes 10.52 seconds. He was followed by Canada’s Trevor in 7 minutes 17.65 seconds.
Alexander Vyazovkin was third in 7 minutes 20.04 seconds, to complete the top three.
On fourth place was Onat Kazakli with a time of 7 minutes 32.86 seconds and Dara Alizadeh of was fifth in 7 minutes 35.73 seconds.
Purcell-Gilpin is now going to compete in semi-final C/D scheduled for July 29.
Speaking after the quarter-final race, Purcell-Gilpin’s coach James Stephenson said yesterday was a bit tough for the rower.
“We have had a wonderful time together and a wonderful experience at the Olympic Games. So, he has been racing… two days ago, yesterday and today.
“So it’s been long, hard racing… been some ups and some downs. You know but he is getting through because he is a great chap, great ambassador for rowing, great ambassador for Zimbabwe. And he gave us all today (yesterday), but came across some really very big big guys who will be heading to compete for the medals. “So you know realistically that’s a bit challenging but he gave it a good go,” said Stephenson.