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He was a regular at Mc Kale Center, one of UA’s most attached basketball fans.

(He vaulted over press row, over my laptop, when Arizona stunned No.

At 18, he was probably the most hotly recruited athlete on campus — and if not him, his former girlfriend, Olympic gold medalist Amanda Beard. Our interview that night in Atlanta was interrupted by a TV news crew from France.


I met him at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics after he finished fifth in the 1,500 finals.I had no idea that the son of a Bloemfontein, South Africa, real estate executive was an internationally known athlete.I knew his name only from a brief news release in which the UA listed Neethling among its Class of 1996 swimming recruits.It was so fulfilling to turn that around.”At the 2000 Sydney Olympics, Neethling was painted as the Big Bad Villain by the Australian press.

He was the opponent most feared as the Aussies planned to finish 1-2 in the 1,500 meter finals behind stars Grant Hackett and Kieren Perkins.

Neethling swam the fastest 1,500 of his life that afternoon — 15 minutes and 0.48 seconds — and was a heartbreaking fourth.



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