These days, the late South African president, Nelson Mandela, is probably most remembered for his commitment to racial equality. He fought tirelessly to end the apartheid in his home country — a move, which earned him the 1993 Nobel Peace Prize. Interestingly, however, to Princess Charlene, Mandela was far more than a role model, an activist, or a leader. He was also the man who helped convince her to continue her swimming career.
According to Arlene Prinsloo’s “Charlene: In Search of a Princess,” Charlene met Mandela for the first time in 2005. At the time, the Olympian and the former president were both in London. Due to their shared ties to South Africa, the pair were introduced, and soon they started chatting about Charlene’s career. At some point in the conversation, it seems that the swimmer mentioned some of the health difficulties that she had faced in previous years. Between a shoulder injury and a chronic stomach virus, Charlene wondered if her athletic career was done for. Mandela, however, told her not to give up.
As Prinsloo explained in her biography, the Nobel Peace Prize winner “urged Charlene to use her talents and return to the swimming pool.” Apparently, the future princess took this advice to heart. Soon after she returned to South Africa, she threw herself into training once more — this time with the renowned coach, Branislav Ivkovic. Thanks to Mandela, Charlene was back in action.