The 34-year-old Coventry is the most decorated Olympian from Africa and won gold medals in the 200-meter backstroke at the 2004 and 2008 Olympics and also has four silvers and a bronze.
On Friday, President Mnangagwa appointed Kirsty Coventry, a former Olympic champion swimmer and a current member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) executive board, as the minister of youth, sports, art and recreation.
The 34-year-old Coventry is the most decorated Olympian from Africa and won gold medals in the 200-meter backstroke at the 2004 and 2008 Olympics and also has four silvers and a bronze, the most Olympic medals by an African athlete.
She shares the record of most individual medals by a female swimmer at the Olympics with Krisztina Egerszegi of Hungary.
Before being appointed minister, Coventry was the vice president of the Zimbabwe Olympic committee. She also chairs the IOC’s athletes’ commission.
Coventry retired after the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games, her fifth Olympics, having won seven of Zimbabwe’s eight all-time medals.
The other was gold by the women’s field hockey team at the boycotted 1980 Moscow Games.
Her new role won’t be as easy as jumping into the water though, she faces challenges in her new role with the governing bodies of Zimbabwe’s two most high-profile sports, soccer and cricket, in financial ruin after years of mismanagement and alleged corruption by politically connected administrators under Mugabe.
“She is a sportsperson and knows about sport, being a person who has been there and done it,” former Zimbabwe cricket captain Tatenda Taibu said. “I know her personally and I know that her heart is in the right place.”
Coventry is known as the Zimbabwe’s “golden girl” for her Olympic success and was given $100,000 by then-president Mugabe after winning four medals at the 2008 Beijing Games, a huge prize for a Zimbabwean athlete. She gave much of the money to charity.