Olympic champion swimmer Kirsty Coventry

Zimbabwe won four medals at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, where star swimmer Kirsty Coventry splashed her way to a gold and three silver.

The 28-year-old Coventry, who is expected to compete at the 2012 London Olympics, also swam for Auburn University in Alabama, leading the school to National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) championships in 2003 and 2004.

Now, another Zimbabwean athlete who won NCAA titles for a southern U.S. university has

Ngoni Makusha with Bowerman Award (Photo credit: United States Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association - USTFCCCA)

Olympic medal aspirations of his own. Ngoni Makusha recently capped an outstanding career at Florida State University by winning the Bowerman Award, the highest individual honor in U.S. collegiate track and field.

“This is awesome,” Makusha said in his acceptance speech. “If I didn’t get this opportunity (to go to school at Florida State), my life would be very different in Zimbabwe.”

The 24-year-old Makusha won six NCAA championships at Florida State – one in the 100-meter dash, one in the 4 x 100 meter relay and four in the long jump.

At this year’s NCAA Championships in Des Moines, Iowa, Makusha joined Olympic champions Jesse Owens, Carl Lewis and DeHart Hubbard as the only men to win the 100-meter dash and the long jump at the same NCAA Championship meet. Let’s take a look at Makusha’s victory in the 100-meters, set on a wet track at Drake Stadium in Des Moines, where he clocked a NCAA record 9.89 seconds.

Ngoni Makusha gave up his final year of collegiate eligibility at Florida State so he could focus on training for the 2011 world championships in South Korea and the 2012 Olympics in London. At the world championships in Daegu, Makusha became the first Zimbabwean to medal at the IAAF event, leaping to a bronze in the long jump.

Looking ahead to the 2012 Games in London, Makusha would like nothing better than to join Kirsty Coventry on the medals podium for Zimbabwe. He is leaving Florida State with a degree in economics and the respect of fans, athletes and coaches.

“To see a young man grow up like he did – it’s doubly special for me, because of where he came from,” said Ken Harnden, a fellow Zimbabwean who is Florida State’s director of sprints, hurdles & relays. “Everything he’s done in his career was done in the right way. What everyone saw him do this year, was just a small part in his life to get to this point. He overcame so many great odds to get here, it makes me overjoyed.”