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Behringer, Germany cruise past Zimbabwe in women’s soccer opener

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Melanie Behringer and Melanie Leupolz each picked up a brace as Germany comfortably moved to a 6-1 win over Zimbabwe in both sides’ Olympic opener on Wednesday at Arena Corinthians in São Paulo.

Germany climbs atop Canada for the Group F lead after one match on goal differential, and Zimbabwe sits last behind Australia.

Sara Dabritz and Alexandra Popp also scored for Germany, while Kudakwashe Bhasopo scored the lone goal from Zimbabwe (who also had an own goal).

Up next for Germany is Australia on Saturday, when Zimbabwe meets Canada.

MORE: Highlights/match replay here

It could’ve been a much worse score line for Zimbabwe, as Germany had seemingly countless shots deflect over, go wide, or just plain hit the frame.

Zimbabwe defender Lynett Mutokuto somehow escaped punishment — not even a foul — when her lunging studs caught Germany’s Simone Laudehr on the ankle. Leupolz of Bayern Munich replaced Laudehr.

Germany went ahead soon after, as Dabritz rose high to head Dzsenifer Marozsán’s corner kick toward the back post. Her sixth international goal gave the favorites a 1-0 edge in the 23rd minute.

Anja Mittag missed the frame with the 11th German attempt of the match, as the chances were 11-0 just over a half hour into the proceedings.

Popp made it 2-0 in the 36th minute, taking advantage of a moment’s hesitance from Zimbabwe keeper Lindiwe Magwede to power Leupolz’s cross home with a header.

Rutendo Makore’s quick move from the left ended with a shot that surprised German ‘keeper Almuth Schult, and Bhasopo was on the doorstep to slot home the rebound.

Behringer had been knocking on the door all night, and finally found her goal with a gorgeous free kick to restore the 2-goal cushion.

Her second goal was indicative of Germany’s match, as Berhinger saw her penalty kick saved only to push the rebound underneath the off-balance Magwede. Popp flicked on for Leupolz to score Germany’s fifth goal moments later.

WATCH LIVE: Germany brings power, pace vs Zimbabwe in Olympic opener

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The second-ranked women’s team in the world is expected to have little trouble with CAF participant Zimbabwe as both teams kicks off their Olympics at 5 p.m. EDT at the Arena Corinthians in Sao Paolo.

WATCH: Germany vs Zimbabwe on NBCOlympics.com

Germany scored bronze in 2000, 2004, and 2008 before failing to qualify in 2012. The Germans are coming off an 11-0 clobbering of Ghana, who is ranked 50 spots higher than Zimbabwe. Coach Silvia Neid’s squad is loaded, and will have Alexandra Popp, Anja Mittag, and Dzsenifer Marozsán amongst others.

Zimbabwe is ranked 93rd in the world, and will be making its Olympic debut in women’s soccer. Little is known about the Mighty Warriors, who will be looking to undertake one of the more mammoths tasks in the tournament in emerging from a group with Canada, Australia, and Germany.

In addition to streaming onNBCOlympics.com, the match will also be available on the NBC Sports app.

Kirsty Coventry, Africa’s top Olympian, dives in one last time

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HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) — The African with the most Olympic medals is one of the great distance runners from Kenya or Ethiopia, right?

Nope.

It’s a swimmer from Zimbabwe.

Like Michael Phelps, Kirsty Coventry is going to the Olympics for the fifth and final time, and she’s swimming for one more little slice of history in the Rio de Janeiro pool.

Phelps has the all-time Olympic record with his medal haul of 22, but Coventry needs one more podium finish at her last Olympics to be the first female swimmer to win eight individual medals.

It’s not an arbitrary stat. It underlines how Coventry, from a southern African nation with very little Olympic success (apart from hers, that is) has done it all by herself. No help from relay teammates to boost that medal count.

Zimbabwe has won eight medals in total at the Olympics, and seven of them have been provided by Coventry, the two-time gold medalist in the 200-meter backstroke. The country’s only other medal is a women’s field hockey gold won during the boycotted 1980 Games in Moscow.

She’s already Africa’s best at the Olympics. As for the other mark, Coventry is level on seven individual swimming medals with Hungary’s Krisztina Egerszegi. Rio is the last chance to edge ahead of Egerszegi. Coventry is 32, on her way out, knows it, and can make light of it.

Who’s the swimmer to watch at the Rio Games?

“Me!” she responded.

Joking.

“In all seriousness the field of swimmers is so strong right now, it’s crazy,” Coventry wrote in an email exchange. “I remember saying how strong it was in London (in 2012), but Rio will be even more so.”

Of them all, Coventry rates Americans Camille Adams and Katie Ledecky highest.

“Camille Adams … she will get you out of your chairs when she is racing. And then there is Katie Ledecky. She will blow your mind. They are the whole package: hard working, competitive, confident, talented, beautiful and filled with positive energy and kindness.”

Coventry’s been pretty good, too, basically representing her country at the Olympics single-handedly over the last 16 years, and ending up with more Olympic medals than any other African athlete. In the pool, too, not on the running track, normally the most fertile ground for African athletes.

“Making the Olympic team is a huge accomplishment, going to five Olympics is incredible,” she wrote. “But winning this number of medals in a sport that is not strong in Africa is unbelievable.”

Like Phelps, she made her Olympic debut as a teenager in Sydney in 2000. And they’ll finish at the same time. In Rio, Coventry will focus on her favorite race and the one that’s brought her two Olympic golds, the 200 backstroke. She’s also qualified in the 100 backstroke and 200 individual medley.

Is there one more medal in there somewhere? It’ll be tough. She didn’t manage to get on the podium in London four years ago.

Coventry grew up around swimming and the Olympics. She remembers watching the ’92 Games in Barcelona on TV and telling her parents she wanted to go to the Olympics. She went to the Sydney Olympics while still at high school. She broke through in Athens with the first of her back-to-back Olympic titles. She went to Auburn University in Alabama, winning NCAA swimming championships while she studied. She was desperately grateful for an Olympic scholarship that helped her prepare for Beijing. She also broke the world records in the 100 and the 200 backstroke.

Makes sense, then, that she stays around sport and the Olympic movement. Coventry is now a member of the International Olympic Committee and serves on the IOC and World Anti-Doping Agency’s athletes’ commissions. She has clear opinions on the big issues affecting the Olympics right now.

On the Russian doping scandal, Coventry said: “This is a huge embarrassment for Russia and the Russian authorities are responsible … there is a higher level of dishonesty at play. This is a warning to any country, coach, parent and athlete that is doping or considering doping: it does not matter who you are and it may not happen today, but you will get caught, and you will become an embarrassment to your friends and family.”

And on the Zika virus and the problems it has presented for the Rio Olympics, Coventry said she never once considered skipping the games. “Brazil are going to put on a great show. It’s going to be an awesome Olympics with some outstanding performances and I can’t wait to get there.”

Onto the last Olympics for Africa’s best Olympian and, ideally, one last medal. But if not, no big deal.

“It’s always been about a desire to make the Olympic team and represent my country,” Coventry said.

MORE: Olympic Swimming Trials reveal where U.S. stands versus world