Olympic gold medallist Ryk Neethling has been announced as the latest Laureus Ambassador. He joins over 150 sporting icons who have lent their knowledge, expertise and names to uplift young people in underprivileged communities, through sport.
“It’s a huge honour for me to be part of this family,” said Neethling. “Not every Olympic medalist gets asked to join this family and it’s an incredible opportunity for me to start giving back. My swimming career has given me so much already and Laureus has offered me an amazing platform to share what I have already learnt. This is not necessarily to create more Olympic champions, but to share the joy and enthusiasm that I have experienced through swimming.”
Neethling ranks discipline, goal-setting and dreaming big as important ingredients for any aspiring athlete. “When I was young South Africa wasn’t even allowed to compete in the Olympics, but I had a dream to get there one day. Perseverance is the ultimate talent.”
Born in Bloemfontein in 1977, Neethling excelled in swimming and earned a place in the South African swimming team for the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, where he came fifth in the 1,500m freestyle. He enrolled at The University of Arizona in the United States, where he further cemented his swimming reputation, earning numerous awards and accolades.
He currently holds the South African record in the 200m, 400m, 800m and 1,500m freestyle events, and recently held the 4×100 m freestyle relay world record. The highlight of his career has been winning a gold medal in the 4×100 m freestyle relay at the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens. He is the first South African to participate in four successive Olympic Games.