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Ryk Wows the Crowds at the Launch of Chasing the Dream

Ryk Neethling Clinton Van der Berg Beautiful people were not in short supply at the launch of Ryk Neethling: Chasing the Dream at the Clico Guest House in Rosebank, Johannesburg on Tuesday night.

Author Clinton Van der Berg and his subject, Olympic gold medalist and swimming champion, mingled with guests before they took to the stage. Random House Struik MD, Stephen Johnson, introduced Neethling as one of the warmest, most sincere people he’s ever met. “Ryk is a glorious compatriot,” he said.

Stephen JohnsonVan der Berg chatted to Neethling in a brief informal interview, noting that he’d put on some weight since he’d seen the swimmer at the Beijing Olympics. “Yes,” said Neethling, “I’m up 13.5kg. Mostly because I’m not swimming at the moment. I’m getting strong, lifting weights.”

Van der Berg quizzed him about his newest project: “First a model, now a soap opera star? Tell us some more about that,” he said. “I remembered all my words, but the actresses struggled,” said Neethling wryly. “They messed up, forgetting their lines.” Hmm, one can’t possibly imagine why. Watch Sewende Laan on 15 January to see him in action.

Ryk Neethling signs copies “Tell us about fellow Grey College old boy, Ollie le Roux; you seem to have had mixed feelings about him,” said Van der Berg. “No mixed feeling at all,” said Neethling. “I was aboslutely terrified of him. He was big bruiser. At the the time he could have lifted me up by my shirt and shaken me stupid. It’s different now… [laughter from the crowd] He’s a good friend to have, advising me to see the big picture when I get too serious. He tells me to have fun, to look on the light side. I can take it from him, because he’s been there.”

Next Neethling was asked how it was to open up for the telling of the story. “You’re quite a private person,” noted Van der Berg.

Clinton Van der Berg & Ryk Neethling“Some things were tough,” he acknowledged. “For a long time people have been asking me to write a book and I knew that if I ever did so, I wanted it to be an honest book. Many people have opinions about me and I wanted the opportunity to have a say, to voice an opinion.”

To that end, Ryk certainly has a view on the contentious issue of doping in sport. He recalled walking into a hotel room he was sharing with a fellow swimmer. “It looked like a pharmacy, with vials and syringes and needles everywhere. You have to be naive to believe that doping isn’t happening, but in 2004, we showed we could beat the dopers.” (Read an excerpt from Chasing the Dream about doping in swimming: click here.)

LouAnn Rivett & Ryk Neethling“So how is it to be constantly recognised, on a daily basis to be asked for autographs, to be stopped on the street?” Neethling never says no to a request. “I know what it’s like to look up to someone, but sometimes its like there are two Ryk Neethlings. The one goes home and eats biltong for supper, the other one lives in a crazy, surreal world of recognition.”

Van der Berg pressed him to talk about the crazy things he is asked to do. Neethling was reluctant. “The emails,” he said. “But I don’t even want to talk about it. It’s not my style to entertain such thoughts.” The audience cheered.

Ryk Neethling, poster boyNeethling spoke of his sister who has been battling cancer and the siblings are very close. “She has been a huge inspiration in my life.”

The swimmer, who nearly drowned as a child, reflected on this tragic reality for many children who never learn to swim. His determination to raise awareness of this problem and his desire to teach children to swim reveals the essence of this extremely likable character. “At heart, I’m still a farm boy from Bloemfontein,” he said.

Don’t miss the launch in Cape Town tonight: click here for details of the event.

Gallery

Niquelle Maasch & Bianca TheronKgosi Moncho & Ryk NeethlingIan Mason & Ree KhanJeanne-Marie Louw & Louis Kotze Ruan Carstens, Ryk Neethling, Deon Cloete & Clinton Van de Berg Kgosi Moncho & Sam Cowen Muriel Siddle, Julie Day, Ryk Neethling, Caroline Nixon, Clinton Van der Berg & Steven James, Stephen Johnson & Daniel Kagan David Shekleton & Ryk Neethling Muriel Siddle, Julie Day, Des Clack & Caroline Nixon Lesley Dicks & Ryk Neethling Josh Georgiou, Therese Owen & David Shekleton Steven James, Ryk Neethling & Daniel Kagan Yana & Erich Kuhlmann, Gary CampbellLesley Mofoken & Zinhle MsimangoColleen Whitfield, Marius Greeff, Sam Cowen & Martine SchafferHenry Lehman, Vanessa Coetzee & Cornel Scheepers Sheryl Allan, Annie Malan, Andrew Khoury & Henja Schaap Caroline Dixon & Sam Cowen Lesley Dicks & Sarah-Jane Truter Gavin Prins & Alvino Wildschutt Grant Johnson, Sharleen Burns, Chantel Rall & Chris Botes Sandra & Michael BrownAvonette Simon, Lyndon Ferns & Tasmin SimonYolandi & Lan-Mari Nortje, Amanda van Rhyn Marjolein Van der Stad & Phyllis Green Lynette Burke & Karen Venter Tertia Heymans & Tom Burke Kim Lubbe & Teixeira GeorgeTudor Lacey & Suzanne ShurePrachi Karnik & Juin Cassie Doron LocketzJudy & John-Laffnie de Jager Haley Williams & Teixeira George Marli van Schalkwyk & Bernie Broskie Maureen & Jeanne-Marie Louw Chris Botes & Lyndon Ferns Andrea & Brian Hundermark Marian Landsberg & Mdu Ndzingi Natasha & Michael Marais Paula Norval, Helen & Marcus Smidt Jacqui Taljaard & Adri van WykRee KhanAndrew Khoury & Kgosi MonchoKim Taylor & Grant JohnsonKatrien Grobler & Sheryl AllanSam Cowen

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