A native of the African country of Zimbabwe, Coventry is the first native of her country to win an Olympic swimming medal as well as the first to ever reach the finals of an Olympic swimming event. She will have a chance to win another when she competes in the 200-meter individual medley on Tuesday. She placed fourth in that event in qualifying for the finals.
"I have had so much support from all my Auburn teammates," Coventry said. "Every day I see them and get to talk to them and Mark (Gangloff's) race really inspired us all. Seeing all of them helps calm me down because it makes me feel like it isn't that big of a deal. It gives me confidence."
The Auburn swimmer races in Athens in the 100-meter backstroke on Monday.
Coventry swam 1:00.50 in the backstroke, .13 behind gold medalist and world record holder Natalie Coughlin (1:00.37) of the United States. Coventry and Coughlin are very familiar with each other as the two have competed against each other in NCAA competition. Coventry defeated Coughlin in the 200-meter backstroke in 2004 to give Coughlin the only collegiate defeat of her career. The Auburn swimmer improved her time from 1:02.90 in prelims to a 1:00.50 in finals of the event.
"It is extremely exciting as an Auburn coach to see Kirsty achieve this," Auburn women's co-head coach Kim Brackin said Monday night. "It is a privilege to be involved in Auburn's first female swimming medal. Getting Rada (Owen) on the Olympic team was the first step and now to have Kirsty medal is just so amazing."
Brackin, who is working as the head swimming coach for Zimbabwe, added, "Representing Zimbabwe has been a wonderful experience. They are behind Kirsty 100 percent and are doing everything they can to help her. They have a genuine pride and enthusiasm. It is kind of like winning NCAAs for the first time. It is so fun to be around.
Auburn head coach David Marsh said, "The Zimbabwe delegation came to talk to Kirsty right after her race and told her that they had all media outlets announce immediately about her race so basically the entire country stopped for her. Of course, Kirsty handled it like she always does--with humility. We had to ask her to put her medal back on to get photos taken."
Coventry swam a time of 2:13.68 in the 200-meter individual medley semi-finals, .38 seconds behind defending Olympic champion and world record holder Yana Klochkova of the Ukraine (2:13.30) and two Americans, Amanda Beard (2:13.51) and Katie Hoff (2:13.60).
Another Auburn swimmer, Bahamian Jeremy Knowles, placed 20th in the prelims of the 200-meter butterfly with a time of 1:59.32.