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‘Unreal’: Zimbabwean Teenager Becomes Her Nation’s First Black Swimmer In the Olympics

Zimbabwe is making history at this year’s Olympics.

Teenager Donata Katai will be the African country’s first Black swimmer to be sent to the international athletic competition.

Donata Katai becomes the first Zimbabwean swimmer to make the Olympics. HM Sport/ Screenshot

With 99 percent of its population consisting of Black people, it’s a wonder why it’s taken so long for there to finally be a Black swimmer to represent Zimbabwe. The 17-year-old Katai made history by becoming the first Black swimmer in her country to go to the Olympics, and she hopes to follow in the footsteps of Kirsty Coventry.

Coventry is a white Zimbabwean swimmer and is Africa’s most decorated Olympian, who won seven swimming medals across the 2004 and 2008 Games, including two golds. On July 17 she was elected to become a full member of the International Olympic Committee, some two years after her national youth record in the 100-meter backstroke was broken by Katai. That’s the event Katai will swim in Tokyo.

Katai told The Associated Press that it is “an achievement to be following in her footsteps.” Despite there being a lack of diversity in Zimbabwe’s swimmers, Katai believes that that will soon change.

“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,” Katai said. She also touched on fellow Olympic swimmer Simone Manuel. Manuel is an American swimmer who is the first Black female swimmer to win an Olympic gold medal.

Katai said, “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 story would be very different from mine.”

Katai has no other emotion but excitement about the Games. “I think it’s (the Olympics) going to be like sort of a movie,” she told AP. “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.”

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