Charlène Wittstock was born in Bulawayo, in Zimbabwe, in 1978, when that country was going through war for independence. During his adolescence he moved with his family to South Africa, where she dedicated herself from a very young age to swimming, becoming a international athlete.
“I remember perfectly the African sky that looks like no other“, he recalled some time ago in an interview with Radio Monaco: it is usual in her express affection for the land where it was born and grew.
His parents, Michael and Lynette, they had always lived in Bulawayo. His father, the grandson of German immigrants, managed to prosper in the IT sectorwhile his mother practiced professional diving.
In the country they had left (which was then called Rhodesia) Charlène spent long hours outdoors and learned to love nature. “There are memories that are very dear to me of my life in Zimbabwe with my parents, that they took me to see rhinos and elephants in the savannahIn fact, it is no coincidence that (at least, until his health allowed it) especially enjoy Roc Agel, the summer palace of the Monegasque family, because the farm is full of animals.
Charléne’s childhood as a refugee
During his early childhood, Charlène spends the day submerged in her home pool or climbing trees. But, when I had 12 years, the civil war pushes his family to emigrate to South Africa. They settled in Benoni, a small industrial enclave on the outskirts of Johannesburg, famous for having also been the actress’s first home Charlize Theron.
There the Wittstocks were refugees and they lived really difficult years, which the princess never hid. Charlène met the racial segregation and witnessed all kinds of injustices and inequalities, especially among children, which has always motivated their commitment to humanitarian causes.
Because of the war lost many of the memories of his childhood, like much of the family pictures. In addition, he lived very closely what it is to see the people starve. “Throw the food or waste water was a sacrilege“He explained in an interview, a few years ago, during a humanitarian trip to India.”We didn’t have electricity because we couldn’t pay for it. Me father had two jobs, me mother gave swimming lessons. I know what it feels like when you have to go walking in the rain for miles to go to school“he revealed harshly.
Little by little the things got better for your family when his father founded his own company computer science. During her adolescence, Charlène showed herself to be a applied student and one passionate about swimming and, thanks to its conditions, began to participate in competitions.
Always counted on him support from their parents. “For get up at 4.30 in the morning every day and do dozens of laps, at the age of 15, you have to be very focused and highly motivated, “recalled his father, Michael, on the eve of his wedding.” He always knew what he wanted and put the media. Us we supported her to reach the best level “. No wonder Michael wittstock affirmed, a few weeks ago, that Charlène will get ahead (of her current health problems) knowing her strength, since she has demonstrated that courage from a very young age.
To the 17 years, eager to continue swimming professionally, he dropped out of his studies and moved to Durban (eastern South Africa) away from his home and his younger brothers, Sean and Gareth. On the shores of the Indian Ocean, his hard work began to pay off, when it is selected for the National Youth Team under the baton of Graham Hill, one of the best coaches in the country.
His routine is six hours a day of training. In 1996, he won the South African Junior Swimming Championships. Her first trophies accumulate at the Plantations women’s residence, outside Hillcrest, where she lived. “She was the ideal roommate,” recalled in 2011 the South African champion Penny Heyns during the Midmar Mile, a charity race. “She was loving, orderly, with a great personality. We always support each other a lot.”
Charlene was back style specialist and is dedicated to work with low-income kids, teaching them to swim, or with fellow special Olympics. His friendship with deaf swimmer Terence Parkin, today one of the ambassadors of his foundation, dates from this key period of his life.
His career could have continued, but Monaco got in the way. It was selected for the women’s 400-meter relay team at the Sydney Olympics. Although he did not win any medals on that occasion, he did win several at the 2002 World Cup and gold at the Commonwealth Games two years later. In 2004 a serious shoulder injury kept her away from swimming for six months. Then he began to prepare for the Beijing Games. Then came his participation in the Mare Nostrum championship, where he had the opportunity to meet to Prince Albert of Monaco, relationship that changed his life forever.
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The very tough childhood of Charlene from Monaco: she was a refugee, lived in poverty but thanks to the love and support of her family she managed to become an Olympic athlete