On Tuesday, August 15, Ryk Neethling, friend and fellow South African swimmer to HSH Princess Charlene, was appointed CEO of the Princess Charlene of Monaco Foundation South Africa, a prestigious voluntary position in South Africa’s charitable sector.
“Ryk is a true champion – a man of integrity, talent and remarkable inner strength,” Princess Charlene told Monaco Life. “He is passionate about water safety and will, I know, take my Foundation from strength to strength in South Africa.”
Last year, the Princess Charlene of Monaco Foundation SA taught 2,507 children to swim and 27,242 children essential water safety skills through 23 projects in South Africa.
“Since my swimming career started at the age of five after a near-drowning incident, I have shared the same passion for water safety as Her Serene Highness Princess Charlene,” commented Ryk Neethling on his appointment. “Twenty-five years ago, we both began representing South Africa at international swimming competitions, and it is an incredible honour for me to now be entrusted with the task of leading her Foundation here in our country.”
Mr Neethling made a splash in Monaco on 4 June when he and Percy Montgomery won the Riviera Water Bike Challenge, the 21km ProAm relay race from Nice to Monaco, in aid of the Foundation. This water bike race was a world premier and raised the funds to build an aquatic rescue centre in Burkina Faso, a project organised in partnership with the Monaco Red Cross and the Burkinabe Red Cross.
Many in Monaco, including the other 19 sports celebrities racing that day, would not have known that Ryk Neethling is one of the most accomplished swimmers in history. An Olympic Gold Medallist and the first South African athlete to represent his country in four consecutive Olympic Games, he also holds the title of three-times World Champion and four-times World Record Breaker.
Following his retirement from swimming, Mr Neethling’s successful business career started with the launch of the Ryk Neethling Swimming Schools franchise in 2008 before he moved to the elite Val de Vie Estate in the Western Cape where he is both a Shareholder and the Marketing Director.
Since 2016, the 39-year-old has served as an Ambassador to the Princess Charlene of Monaco Foundation, which was established in 2012 and has since reached over 300,000, alongside Francois Pienaar and Terence Parkin in South Africa. He is also actively involved in the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation and is an Ambassador for Hope Through Action.
The World Health Organisation estimates that drowning claims the lives of more than 60,000 children under the age of five and more than 360,000 people globally each year. In South Africa, drowning is the second leading cause of accidental death after road accidents.
Article first published August 15, 2017.