It’s good to have friends in high places. Princess Charlene of Monaco (formerly Charlene Wittstock, Olympian from South Africa) has offered to host the South African swim team in a pre-Olympics training camp ahead of this summer’s 2012 Olympic Games.
Wittstock represented South Africa at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, where she was a member of their 5th-place 400 free relay. As Swimming South Africa has been hit hard by financial woes (though they say the connection to the Princess’ offer is unrelated), this announcement will give some relief as the leaders of the sport in that country scramble organizationally – they have reportedly not even set their budget for the Olympic year yet.
Meanwhile, in Monaco, Princess Charlene will provide al necessary acommodations, training facilities, and meals, if Swimming South Africa will get the athletes there (which, they would have to do anyway en route to London).
With pool space in and near London rapidly filling up (as there’s not nearly the same availability of quality water as there is in countries like the United Staes and Australia), it’s huge for the South Africans to be settled in a facility. This comes at the same time that Swimming Australia has already told their two open water swimmers that there was no room to train with the pool swimmers before London.
Princess Charlene’s position of power has more than once proved beneficial to the swimming community. She has previously hosted the training of Zimbabwean gold medalist Kirsty Coventry before Coventry returned to the United States. As Princess Charlene’s mainstream visibility increases (she and her husband, Prince Albert, were on the red carpet at the Academy Awards) it should only continue to open up more opportunities for the sport.