Page last updated at 22:14 GMT, Friday, 29 August 2008 23:14 UK

Zimbabwe swimmer gets cash prize

Kirsty Coventry
Kirsty Coventry was born in Zimbabwe but lives in the United States

Zimbabwe's top Olympic swimmer has been given a $100,000 dollar reward by the country's president, Robert Mugabe.

Kirsty Coventry won all of Zimbabwe's four medals at the Beijing games, taking them to 38th in the medal table.

She was given the money, worth 54,890, in a suitcase by the governor of the central bank.

In a ceremony carried live on state television, Mr Mugabe called the swimmer "a daughter of Zimbabwe" and a "golden girl".

She smashed the world record to win gold in the women's 200 metres backstroke.

'Rare praise'

BBC correspondent Jonah Fisher, based in neighbouring South Africa, says Ms Coventry is lucky her reward is in American dollars, because a suitcase of Zimbabwean currency would scarcely have bought her a loaf of bread.

Inflation is currently running at 11,000,000% and there are widespread shortages of food and fuel.

As he presented Ms Coventry the cash, Mr Mugabe said: "You have done well, daughter of Zimbabwe.

"We wish you well in life. We should praise her. She is our golden girl. Take care of her."

It was rare praise for a white Zimbabwean, our correspondent notes: Mr Mugabe has spent much of the last 10 years repossessing white owned farms and railing against Britain and the West.

During the ceremony, Mr Mugabe also handed out $10,000 (5,520) to Zimbabwe's other Olympic finalists, while others who were part of the national team were given $2,000 (1,103).

The 24-year old swimmer, who also won three silver medals in Beijing, is expected to return to her home in the United States this weekend, after a flying visit to the country of her birth.

Mr Mugabe also gave Ms Coventry $50,000 (27,450) and a diplomatic passport after the Athens games in 2004, where she won three medals - a gold, a silver and a bronze.

Coventry retains backstroke title
16 Aug 08 |  Swimming
Coventry takes backstroke
20 Aug 04 |  Swimming
Zimbabwean breaks backstroke mark
11 Aug 08 |  Swimming

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