On Saturday, February 12, 2011 at 8:00 am. in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa the Midmar Mile, the biggest competition of open water swimming in the world, has begun. The rounded shape lake is located in the hollow of green hills. Under the VIP tent is Charlene, in shorts and t-shirt, talking to her parents and brother. Her friends, all former swimming champions are also there. They are Germany’s Franziska van Almsick, with whom Charlene met three years earlier at a party in Monaco, Roland Schoeman, a South African who said he was delighted be invited to the wedding, Lewis Gordon Pugh, and Terence Parkin, who won the silver medal in Sydney despite his deafness.
At 9 am Charlene dives into the calm waters. The long journey across the lake begins. The five friends swim in perfect harmony. Less than thirty minutes later, they reached the finish. Charlene tells her friend Penny Heyns that, ‘Terence kept making me laugh and I drank the cup!’ The young woman is in her element. After the race, Charlene had promised return next year, hopefully, with HSH Prince Albert II of Monaco.
Last June, when Wayne Riddin, the former Director of the South African team, visits Monaco, her asked Charlene to participate in the Midmar Mile. She immediately accepted. Ten days before the race begins, Charlene takes the opportunity to see her friends and family at a BBQ.
As president of the Special Olympics in Monaco, it will be opportunity for her to raise funds for the mentally nod physically disabled. For first time in her own country, Charlene will practice one of the roles as the future Princess of Monaco. She is proud.
Those who know Charlene well say that since her five years in Monaco she is still the same down to earth person. They only thing that has changed is her confidence, “Charlene has matured’ says a close friend. ‘Despite her new position, she has remained herself, humble, graceful and spontaneous,’ says another friend.
Two days before the race, Charlene is cheerful. Dressed in jeans and a high ethnic origin (?) she arrives at an event whereupon she gives Midmar Mile a check for 60,000 Euros, “Charlene has make us the largest donation ever received,’ says Wayne Riddin, facing the congregation. ‘The future Princess of Monaco is a special person who gives its time for a group of special people,’ he said.
Then Charlene embraces all the friends who are present. After the dinner, Charlene goes from table to table to chat with people. With Penny Heyns, who was her roommate at numerous swimming events abroad her time with Charlene evokes memories that make her laugh. ‘Charlene is always so funny… she has a great sense of humor,” says Penny. ‘She has a beautiful soul,’ adds Graham Hill, Charlene’s former coach in Durban, South Africa for seven years. His reputation as the best coach in the country had grown Charlene to join his training from the age of 16. With good reason. It helped to be among the five best swimmers in the world after the Sydney Olympics 2000.
Excited, the man with craggy face recalls ‘the fairy tale’ that he saw his protegé. He was present when Prince Albert II had invited Charlene to dinner in 2001 during the swimming event “Mare Nostrum” in Monaco. ‘When Wayne and I have willingly Riddin given our consent to this escapade night ever we imagine that this event would lead to a princely marriage, then she who dedicated his life to swimming! He added: ‘Charlene has a mind of steel that will certainly serve her in the future as the Princess of Monaco. I am not worried for her. She has a strong personality. She was always the leader of her group of swimmers, always sincere and honest. She was true, too.’
Since 2010, Charlene is a member of the Nelson Mandela Foundation, the great man who has long guided his thoughts and actions, and she had done knowledge in London in January 2005, during a dinner in a restaurant. This Friday, February 11, 2011, she is the guest of honor at the photo exhibition “Intimate Moments With Nelson Mandela.” Despite the rather unglamorous, a shopping mall along the highway, Charlene adorned with a gorgeous black dress. Gesture symbolic image in honor of his mentor. Then She slipped away long before midnight. The next day, 1.6 kilometer race begins. In Monaco, she has trained with her coach, Serbian Branislav Ivkovic, who she had worked with in 2007 to prepare for the Beijing Olympics; however, a shoulder injury had prevented her selection to the South African Olympic team.
Without doubt this journey to the land of her childhood, the last before her marriage in July, it was necessary for Charlene. Now it has accomplished, not only for the connection between the two countries through her charity work, but for unity.
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