SA swimmer to wed Monaco prince

2010-06-24 00:00

PIETERMARITZBURG swimming coach Wayne Riddin yesterday said the engagement of Prince Albert of Monaco (52) to SA Olympic swimmer Charlene Wittstock (32) made him “incredibly happy”. After all, Riddin gave Wittstock permission to go on her first date with the prince 10 years ago.

Wittstock, a member of the South African women’s 4x100 m medley team, trained under Riddin for the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

While at a training camp in Monaco, a young Wittstock was approached by the prince for a date.

“She came and asked my permission as her coach, and I didn’t have any problem with it. My only condition was that I got a photo with the prince!” said Riddin, laughing “It’s a photo I still have.”

Riddin has just returned from another training camp in Monaco, where he was able to spend time with Wittstock.

“It was great to see her, and really good to see her so happy,” he said.

Riddin said Wittstock has a close association with Pietermaritzburg. “She was coached in Durban, and swam many times in Maritzburg.” he said.

Prince Albert and Wittstock hosted the KwaZulu-Natal Seals swimming team for a week before the Monaco swim meet early this month.

Wittstock moved to Monaco permanently in 2006, but has maintained her ties to swimming.

Riddin said she heads fundraising initiatives for the Special Olympics and remains involved in the South African swimming scene.

The Monegasque royal household announced the engagement yesterday.

No official wedding date has been set, but protocol dictates that royal couples must wait at least six months between the announcement of their engagement and their wedding day.

Wittstock will be Monaco’s first crown princess since the death of the illustrious Grace Kelly, Prince Albert’s mother.

Riddin said he believes the role will “certainly suit her”.

The pending nuptials will change Prince Albert’s status from perpetual bachelor to royal family man. Some political commentators predict the people of Monaco will welcome the change in the hope for a legitimate heir to the throne.

Neither of Albert’s two children are eligible for the Monegasque crown as both were born out of wedlock.

Reuters reports that Albert once said press intrusion was partly to blame for his prolonged bachelorhood. “Life will not be easy for my future wife,” he told Le Figaro daily before he met Wittstock.

“I became accustomed, at an early age, to the incessant presence of photographers. Some of my girlfriends who have been exposed, even for a very brief time, to this sort of life were not at all pleased,” he said.

Palace insiders had suggested that his refusal to wed was the reason he only ascended the throne upon the death of his father, the family partriarch Prince Rainier.

Albert Alexandre Louis Pierre Grimaldi was born on March 14 1958 and educated in Monaco and Amherst College in Massachusetts in the U.S.

Fluent in English, French, Italian and German, Albert became a roving ambassador for his country’s booming business interests for years and also served as head of Monaco’s delegation to the United Nations.

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