Ryk Neethling, the Olympic swimming champion has recently been appointed to the voluntary position of CEO of the Princess Charlene of Monaco Foundation in SA.
In addition to serving as an ambassador to the foundation this past year, together with Francois Pienaar and Terence Parking, Neethling has been involved in the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation SA and, and he is also the ambassador for Hope Through Action.
Neethling’s commitment to the foundation goals is clear:
“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”
The two began representing SA at international swimming competitions over twenty-five years ago. “it is an incredible honor for me,” says Neethling, “to now be entrusted with the task of leading her foundation here in our country… The cause is a critical one.”
Gavin Varejes, businessman and president of the foundation says “Ryk is certainly one of the greatest swimmers this country has seen and he is keen to use his influence as an athlete to inspire young people and uplift communities. We are all thrilled that he has chosen to take on this new role — he is the right man for the job.”
Princess Charlene herself, who also happens to be friends with Ryk from their days of competitive swimming, has stated that “Ryk is a true champion — a man of integrity‚ talent and remarkable inner strength. He is passionate about water safety and will‚ I know‚ take my foundation from strength to strength in SA.
Not only an Olympic champion, Neethling and Percy Montgomery, former Springbok rugby player, won the Riviera Water Bike Challenge this last June, in support of the foundation. The ProAm relay race, which stretched over 21 km from Nice to Monaco on water bikes, was the first of its kind in the world. Thanks to the race, sufficient funds were raised to build an aquatic rescue center in Burkina Faso. The organization of the project was undertaken in cooperation with the Monaco Red Cross and the Burkinabe Red Cross Society.
Each year, it is estimated that more than 60,000 children under the age of five and over 360,000 people around the world fall victim to death by drowning, according The World Health Organization. In SA particularly, drowning is one of the leading cause of accidental death, only surpassed by road accidents, according to the foundation.
Since its establishment in 2012, the foundation has managed to reach more than 300,000 people globally as part of its fight against death by drowning. Its primary aim is to increase public awareness regarding water safety, including teaching children essential skills such as swimming as well as conveying the dangers of water and how to handle them.
By 2016, only four years after its launch, the foundation has taught 2,507 children to swim and 27,242 children essential water safety skills. The outreach was divided across twenty-three projects in SA. Only one month ago, the foundation became partners with Lifesaving SA in order to broaden its efforts across the country.