The Olympic champion receives support from Gavin Varejes for his new role as CEO of the Princess Charlene of Monaco Foundation in SA
Ryk Neethling, an Olympic and world champion swimmer, is the newly voluntary appointed CEO of the Princess Charlene of Monaco Foundation in SA.
Neethling’s appointment follows a year in which he served as an ambassador to the foundation, alongside Francois Pienaar and Terence Parkin.
Aside from the latest appointment, Neethling is also involved in the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation SA and is an ambassador for Hope Through Action. His commitment to the foundation’s goals is unfaltering. After a near-drowning incident at the age of 5, Neethling launched a swimming career which success was only matched by his dedication to water safety. He shares his passion with Her Serene Highness Princess Charlene, with whom, 25 years ago, he began representing SA at international swimming competitions. “It is an incredible honour for me to now be entrusted with the task of leading her foundation here in our country”, says Neethling, “the cause is a critical one”.
Neethling’s concern is justified. According to the World Health Organization, over 60,000 children under the age of five and over 360,000 people worldwide die by drowning each year, making drowning the second leading cause of accidental death after road accidents, according to the foundation.
Established in 2012, the foundation has already reached over 300,000 people worldwide in support of its goal to fight the phenomena of death by drowning. With awareness being its major area of focus, the foundation teaches children swimming and essential water safety skills.
In its fight against death by drowning, the foundation has already executed 23 projects in SA and has reached 30,000 children, teaching them how to swim and water safety skills. Efforts to expand the foundation’s reach across the country are made constantly, most recently including partnering with Lifesaving SA.
Neethling, together with Percy Montgomery, former Springbok rugby player, won the Riviera Water Bike Challenge in aid of the foundation this last June. The first of its kind, the ProAm relay race spread over 21 km from Nice to Monaco on water bikes. It has succeeded in raising sufficient funds to build an aquatic rescue center in Burkina Faso. This project is organized in partnership with the Monaco Red Cross and the Burkinabe Red Cross Society.
Neethling is held in high esteem by friends and colleagues. Gavin Varejes, businessman and president of the foundation said: “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”. And Princess Charlene 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”.
Gavin Varejes is the CEO of Richmark Holdings LTD and the President of SARLA (South African Rugby Legends association)