Ryk Neethling is a South African businessman who rose to prominence as the three-times World Champion and four-times World Record Breaking Olympic swimming champion. He is known as one of the most accomplished swimmers in history.
He is CEO of the Princess Charlene of Monaco Foundation South Africa, a Laureus Sport for Good Foundation Ambassador, founder of the Ryk Neethling Swimming Schools and a director and shareholder of Val de Vie Estate. He is also an international keynote and motivational speaker
He won an Olympic gold medal in the 4×100 m freestyle relay at the 2004 Summer Olympics and won three individual gold medals at the 2006 FINA World Aquatics Championships in Shanghai. Winning nine National Collegiate Athletic Association championships makes him the third best men’s swimmer in almost 100 years.
He is the former joint owner of the 4×100 m freestyle relay world record and broke the 100m Individual Medley World Record three times in 2005. He is also the first South African to compete in four successive Olympic Games. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology and Business from the University of Arizona, which also named him the American NCAA Swimmer of the Year and Athlete of the Century in 1999.
Born in Bloemfontein, he attended Grey College, where he excelled in swimming, earning a place in the South African swimming team for the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, where he came fifth in the 1500 m freestyle. Immediately following the Games he was enrolled at The University of Arizona in the United States, where he further cemented his swimming reputation, earning a numerous awards and accolades, including being the 9 times NCAA National Champion, Arizona Athlete of the Year and PAC-10 Athlete of the Year for four consecutive years, 1999 NCAA Swimmer of the Year, and the University of Arizona Athlete of the Century award.
He continued his international career at the 1998 Commonwealth Games, winning the silver medal in the 1500 m freestyle, but only managing fifth at the 1998 World Aquatics Championships. In 1999 he had a much better Pan Pacific Championships winning silver in the 1500 m freestyle, and bronze in the 400 m and 200 m freestyle. After achieving a disappointing 5th in the 1500 m freestyle event and 8th in the 400 m freestyle at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney he elected to discontinue competing in the 1500 m event, concentrating instead on the 50 m and 100 m freestyle events. He is the only men’s swimmer in Olympic history to swim in the 100 to 1500m freestyle finals At the 2002 Commonwealth Games he won a bronze medal in the 100 m freestyle and came 4th in the 50 m freestyle events. At the 2006 Commonwealth Games he won silver in the 100 m freestyle and was part of the S.A gold medal winning 4×100 m freestyle relay team. After finishing the 2008 Summer Olympics. He became the first South African to participate four successive Olympic Games.
He is now shareholder and marketing director of Val de Vie Estate a luxury property development in Paarl, South Africa.