ZIMBABWE teen swimming sensation Donata Katai showed her potential to become one of the best swimmers in the world in the future after clocking a new personal best time in the heats of the women’s 100 backstroke at the Olympic Games in Tokyo on Sunday.
Competing in her first Olympics, the 17-year-old rising star finished first in her heat in 1:02.73 to easily eclipse her previous time of 1:05.04.
The Gateway High School pupil finished well ahead of 21-year-old Indian swimmer Maana Patel who finished second with a time of 1.05.20 while Grenada’s Kimberly Ince (1:10.24) finished third in the slowest heat 1.
Katai, who qualified for the Games via a universality entry, was however unlucky not to qualify for the semifinals of the women’s 100m backstroke as her time was not quick enough to reach the semifinals where the top 16 swimmers qualified.
Despite her failure to reach the semis, Katai, who became the first back Zimbabwean swimmer to compete at the Olympics, has been praised for putting on a commendable performance on her debut at the Games.
Katai’s was made more remarkable by the fact that she did not have an opportunity to compete in international competitions in the lead up to the Olympic Games due to the travel restrictions around the world as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The young swimmer was one of the two Zimbabwe’s flag bearers with rower Peter Purcell-Gilpin during the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games on Friday.
Katai has won two African youth titles and broke youth records once held by two-time Olympic champion Kirsty Coventry.
The retired swimmer, Coventry, serves as Zimbabwe’s youth, sport, arts, and recreation minister and is also a member of the International Olympic Committee (ODI).
Katai won gold medals in the 50m and 100m backstroke at the 2019 African Junior Championships in Tunisia.