- 40 Years
- South Africa
- Cape Town
- Eye Colour
Highlights of work experience: Ryk Neethling is one of the most successful swimmers in history to compete for the University of Arizona and the Republic of South Africa. Ryk has participated in the last three Olympic Games for South Africa, culminating with a Gold Medal and World Record performance in the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Greece. Currently, Neethling holds the South African record in five different events and ranks in the top ten in the world in both the 50, 100, 200 Freestyle and Individual Medleys. Yet it is his success as an intercollegiate swimmer at the University of Arizona that elevated him to become one of the most highly regarded athletes in Tucson and the International swimming community. Ryk’s collegiate athletic career at Arizona was unmatched, leading to nine individual NCAA Championships and the Arizona Athlete of the Century Award.
Ryk, pronounced "rake" was born and raised in Bloemfontein, South Africa. He was raised by his parents Ryk and San-Marie with his two sisters Elsje (22) and Jean-Marie (13). Growing up in a close knit family, Ryk learned the meaning of competition and determination. His sister, Elsje, was diagnosed with brain tumors at the age of twelve and endured three brain surgeries before recovering fully. Throughout her treatment, she continued swimming, never giving up her hope, determination, and passion while fighting for her life. It was this mentality that Ryk adopted in his swimming that led him to his international and collegiate success.
Ryk attended all of his schooling prior to the University of Arizona at Grey College in South Africa ; the third generation of Neethling’s to attend. One of the most prestigious institutions in South Africa, Grey College, was attended by former South African presidents and other influential politicians.
At the age of 6, Ryk started taking water safety lessons after a near fatal drowning incident at a neighbor’s house, and immediately took to the water. Ryk quickly became a national force in the age groups, but international sanctions due to the apartheid always put a damper on South African athlete's celebrations and dreams. Unable to compete in any international competitions because of these sanctions, South Africa's top swimmers were forced to attend American universities to compete against the best in the world. But Ryk was fortunate enough to be surrounded by some of the top swimmers in South Africa at his club in Bloemfontein and soon realized his dreams of competing in the Olympics might be attainable. It was during this time that Ryk started dreaming about going to the US to study and swim and to make his Olympic dream a reality. Throughout this time he was coached by Simon Gray, a former Olympic swimmer for Great Britain who coached him through the 1996 Olympics.
In 1995, at the age of 17, several colleges began recruiting Ryk for swimming scholarships. At this point, he had never visited the United States and barely spoke English. He was recruited by swimming powerhouses Michigan, Stanford, Southern California, and ASU. At that time, Michigan was his first choice because of their history of great distance swimmers. When Michigan did not guarantee him an athletic scholarship and he began seriously considering other programs, he first thought of the University of Arizona. Ryk had received a package from Arizona Head Swim Coach Frank Busch which included pictures of the Hillenbrand pool and McKale Center in the swimming media guide. For some reason, after staring at the picture of the pool and becoming mesmerized by the mountains set in the background, Ryk envisioned himself training in that pool. He soon committed to Arizona and enrolled in the fall of 1996, immediately following the Atlanta Olympic Games. Throughout the four years he competed for Arizona, he had several opportunities to show Michigan the recruiting error they had made. Ryk had become one of the most successful intercollegiate swimmers in history.
During his career at Arizona, Ryk’s success in athletics was unparalleled. He was a nine-time NCAA National Champion (2nd most in history). He was voted Arizona Athlete of the Year and PAC-10 Swimmer of the year for four consecutive years. In 1999, the NCAA named him the Swimmer of the Year, the highest honor in intercollegiate swimming. He also earned other Arizona honors such as the Sapphire Award Winner in 2000. But the most prestigious award he received during his collegiate career was the University of Arizona Athlete of the Century Award, over other influential Arizona athletes such as Annika Sorrenstan, Chrissy Ahman, Jason Terry, Amy Skieresz, Jenny Finch, and Abdi Abdirahman.
Ryk began participating in international competition for the country of South Africa in 1993 and continued throughout his career at Arizona. Since, Ryk has held over 20 junior national records and 22 South African National titles. He has represented South Africa and medaled in three Commonwealth Games, the most in South African history. He has also been a five-time finalist in the Olympics and the World Championships, participating in the 1996, 2000 & 2004 Olympic Games.
In the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Ryk participated as a member of the South Africa 4x100 Freestyle Relay, anchoring the team to a Gold Medal and World Record (3:13.17) performance. Ryk also made the finals in the 100m Freestyle, placing 4th overall.
During the 2004/2005 FINA World Cup Series Ryk continued his success in the pool by dominating the 200m Freestyle and 100m IM with record breaking performances. His time of 52.01 in the 100m IM is the currently the World Record.
Currently, Ryk is based in Johannesburg , South Africa. He is coached by his college coach, Frank Busch. Ryk continues his training and has his eyes set on the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.
2005: Lays Chips TV commercial.
Ryk is a great brand ambassador for any company.
He currently has the following sponsors:
- Red Bull
- Arena International
- TAG Heur
- USN - nutrition and supplements