Ryk Neethling – Olympic Gold Medalist, three time World Champion, World Record holder and the only South African to compete in four Olympic Games.
Ryk was born in Bloemfontein and he started swimming after a near drowning incident at the age of 5. An asthma sufferer, he set his sights on the Olympics at age 10 and he achieved this at the 1996 Olympics where he finished 5th in the 1500 m ‘Freestyle’ race.
Ryk moved to the United States to study at the University of Arizona, where he achieved unparalleled success by winning 9 individual national championships and he was named the ‘University of Arizona Athlete of the Century’, beating numerous NBA, NFL and PGA golf stars.
At his third Olympics in Athens, Greece (2004), Ryk and his 4×100 freestyle relay team shocked the swimming world to win in a new world record time, beating the USA, Australia and Russia. It has been the only Olympic gold medal that South Africa had won in 12 years. In 2005, he broke three World Records. In 2006, he won three gold medals at the FINA World Championships in Shanghai and he was name FINA World Cup Swimmer of the Year in 2005 and in 2006.
In 2006, he turned down a R50 million offer to swim for Qatar, committing to South Africa and making a difference in his home country.
He retired from international swimming after the 2008 Olympics in Beijing where the defending champions finished 7th in a new South African and African record.
Currently, he is the owner of the Ryk Neethling Swimming School which has 6 branches. He is also the Marketing Director and a shareholder at Val de Vie, a wine and polo estate in the Western Cape – he also manages Cameron van den Burgh, current breaststroke Olympic Champion and World Record Holder.
Ryk is passionate about South Africa and he does numerous work for charity with the Ryk Neethling Foundation; he is a patron of The Jacaranda Children’s Home, Ons Kinderhuis, CHOC, Hope Through Action and The Walter Sisulu Paediatric Cardiac Centre for Africa.
Ryk Neethling speaks about his dreams, years of preparation, disappointments and failures, quitting, making a comeback, setting goals, teamwork, confidence, charity and humility.