RYK NEETHLING – CHASING THE DREAM
Anybody who watched the Awesome Foursome (Ryk, Roland Schoeman, Lyndon Ferns and Darian Townsend) win gold in the 4 x 100m freestyle relay at the Athens Olympics in 2004, would enjoy reading the recently released Ryk Neethling autobiography.
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The book covers the build up to the Athens Olympics and reveals how the top swimmers started believing they could win the gold medal in the relay, even though they had only finished in eighth position at the World Champs the previous year.
The rest is, as they say is history, and the unforgettable sight of the four South Africans celebrating while a stunned Michael Phelps looks on, will forever be etched in the minds of South Africans.
Neethling describes how he landed up training in America, and the many sacrifices that needed to be made along the way. The hard work a top swimmers needs to put into the pool is described, without going into jargon that only a swimmer would understand.
It is quite a story about how a boy from Bloemfontein reached the top of international swimming and eventually achieved his dream of winning an Olympic gold medal.
Neethling does not pull punches when telling how Swim SA, the body controlling the sport in the country seemed to be working against the swimmers, instead of supporting them. Many valid points are mentioned and one wonders what will actually become of the sport in the future.
It is clear, not only from “Chasing the Dream”, but also from events that occurred at Beijing that all is not well at Swim SA. Neethling covers the build up to Beijing and the clashes he had with Dirk Lange, the disgraced national swim coach.
Lange should have never been appointed as our national director of coaching in the first place and lets just hope he has not caused lasting damage to South African swimming. His inferiority complex when dealing with our senior swimmers contributed in a large manner to the rift between the local based and the overseas based swimmers.
The incompetence displayed by the administrators at Swim SA compounded the problem and instead of winning medals at Olympic Games, we now have officials telling us about how many African and national records we broke at the Olympics.
Let’s hope Neethling’s book will cause some frank discussions about where we are as a swimming nation and that plans to ensure we win medals at the 2012 Olympics will be put into place now.
Ryk Neethling is a prime example of South Africa’s never say die attitude and he is worthy of being called a South African sports legend. May his book inspire the next generation of South African swimmers who will believe that they can conquer the world, no matter what obstacles stand in their path.