17-year-old Donata Katai is making history by becoming the first Black swimmer to represent Zimbabwe in the Olympics. Katai’s accomplishment is very laudable because she is from a country that’s 99 percent Black; yet has never had a Black swimmer represent them in the Olympic games.
According to the Associated Press, Donata Katai won gold medals in both the 50-meter and 100-meter backstroke in the 2019 African Junior Championships in Tunisia. In addition to taking gold medals, Katai also broke the youth records of two-time Olympic champion Kirsty Coventry on her way to the Olympics. Coventry is Zimbabwe’s most decorated Olympian, and like most swimmers who have represented the country, she’s white.
However, swimming hasn’t been the most diverse Olympic sport. American swimmer Simone Manuel, a Black woman, won the gold medal in the 100-meter freestyle during the 2016 Olympic games. Her victory began a conversation on the lack of diversity in the sport. On a global scale, that seems to be gradually changing as Great Britain will also see 24-year-old Alice Dearingbecome the first Black woman to represent the country in the games.
“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 (Manuel’s) story would be very different from mine,” Katai told AP. “There’s a lot of people of color that take part in the sport. It’s kind of becoming normal for me in Zimbabwe.” Danai Katai believes.