Ryk Neethling

Olympic gold medalist and world record holder

Born in Bloemfontein, he attended Grey College, where he excelled in swimming, earning a place in the South African swimming team for the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, where he came fifth in the 1500 m freestyle.

Immediately following the Games he was enrolled at The University of Arizona in the United States of America, where he further cemented his swimming reputation, earning a numerous awards and accolades, including being the 9 times NCAA National Champion, Arizona Athlete of the Year and PAC-10 Athlete of the Year for four consecutive years, 1999 NCAA Swimmer of the Year, and the University of Arizona Athlete of the Century award.

He continued his international career at the 1998 Commonwealth Games, winning the silver medal in the 1500 m freestyle, but only managing fifth at the 1998 World Aquatics Championships. In 1999 he had a much better Pan Pacific Championships winning silver in the 1500 m freestyle, and bronze in the 400 m and 200 m freestyle. After achieving a disappointing 5th in the 1500 m freestyle event and 8th in the 400 m freestyle at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney he elected to discontinue competing in the 1500 m event, concentrating instead on the 50 m and 100 m freestyle events. At the 2002 Commonwealth Games he won a bronze medal in the 100 m freestyle and came 4th in the 50 m freestyle events. At the 2006 Commonwealth Games he won silver in the 100 m freestyle and was part of the S.A gold medal winning 4×100 m freestyle relay team.

He currently holds the South African record in the 200 m, 400 m, 800 m and 1500 m freestyle events, and recently held 4×100 m freestyle relay world record.

The highlight of his career thus far has been winning a gold medal in the 4×100 m freestyle relay at the 2004 Summer Olympics. He also placed 4th in the individual 100 m freestyle.

In November 2005, he announced that he had refused a multimillion dollar offer by Qatar's Olympic body to switch nationalities and swim for Qatar at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

The 4×100 m freestyle relay world record was subsequently broken in 2006 by the USA.

After finishing the 2008 Summer Olympics. He become the first South African to participate four successive Olympic Games.

Ryk has competed in 4 Olympic Games

Games Age Event Rank Medal
1996 Summer 18 Men's 400 metres Freestyle 11  
1996 Summer 18 Men's 1,500 metres Freestyle 5  
2000 Summer 22 Men's 400 metres Freestyle 8  
2000 Summer 22 Men's 1,500 metres Freestyle 5  
2004 Summer 26 Men's 100 metres Freestyle 4  
2004 Summer 26 Men's 4 × 100 metres Freestyle Relay 1 Gold
2008 Summer 30 Men's 100 metres Freestyle 30  
2008 Summer 30 Men's 4 × 100 metres Freestyle Relay 7  



 By the time Ryk Neethling finished his college swimming career, he was a nine-time NCAA individual champion, a four-time Pac-10 Conference Swimmer of the Year, a seven-time Pac-10 Conference individual champion, a 17-time All-American, the 1998-1999 NCAA Division 1 Swimmer of the Year, and an Olympian. At the time of his induction, Ryk held the South African record in five different events and ranked in the top ten in the world in the 50,100 and 200 Freestyle and Individual Medleys.  At the time of his induction, Ryk’s nine career individual NCAA titles were the most by any student-athlete in the 100 plus year history of Wildcat Athletics.  The nine titles also tied for the third best overall in the 81 year history of NCAA men’s swimming and Ryk became only the eighth man in NCAA swimming history to win three back to back national championships. Amazingly, all 17 of Ryk’s All-America selections are of the first-team variety, meaning he finished in the top-8 of every race that he entered during his four years. Ryk has held over 20 junior national records and 22 South African National titles. He has represented South Africa and medalled 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.

More in this category: « Terence Parkin World Records »