Cape Town - A decade after a record-breaking three minutes and 13 seconds were etched in sporting history as four South African swimmers claimed victory at the 2004 Olympic Games - Ryk Neethling, who swam the final length of the 4x100 relay, has made the astonishing decision to donate his Olympic gold medal.
This unique gesture is believed to be the first of its kind by a South African.
As a form of giving back to the institution that contributed much to who he is today - a swimming victor, turned successful businessman, Neethling will be handing over the medal to his alma mater, Grey College in Bloemfontein at a ceremony that will be held at the school in February 2015.
It is sure to be a moving occasion as the moment of triumph, shared with Roland Schoeman, Lyndon Ferns and Darian Townsend, is reflected upon.
“My greatest hope is that the medal will encourage young, aspiring sportspeople to go after their dreams and to achieve what may seem impossible to them,” commented Neethling.
To Neethling, the medal is more than just a valuable object; it’s a symbol of a life-changing moment, many years of determination, hard work and sacrifice. However, he has come to the realisation that, rather than keeping it in a safe for no eye to see; visibly displayed, it has the potential to inspire.
“It’s not easy to let go of something that represents a meaningful chapter of my life; but in a sense, the medal and what it stands for has worked for me by opening doors to opportunity and now I feel it’s the right time to let the medal work for others by inspiring them to pursue similar experiences in their own lives.”
Grey College is renowned for its sporting excellence and is thus, even more so, a fitting choice of institution at which to house the medal.
Deon Scheepers, Headmaster at Grey College, commented “Ryk is known for his modesty and commitment towards Grey College. The fact that he is prepared to donate his Olympic gold medal - the first and only Olympic gold medal ever won by an Old Grey - to his alma mater, bears testimony to his loyalty towards, and respect for the school. He is a true inspiration to the school as well as the Grey College community, and his gold medal will find a special place in the Grey Museum for future generations to appreciate.”
Never stopping at second best, Neethling has since continued to forge his way to success, continually ensuring that he encourages others to do so along the way. Based on this ethos, he established the Ryk Neethling™ Swimming Stars™ schools that are dotted across the country in five locations. He furthermore helps manage the sporting careers of swimmer, Cameron van der Burgh, and a number of other talented athletes.
Neethling is now a full-time businessman who wears many hats at Val de Vie Estate in the Western Cape, where he has invested his time and efforts as a shareholder and Marketing Director for the past five years.