Monday, June 27, 2011

The Prince of Monaco to marry swimmer, Charlene Wittstock, on July 1st and 2nd.

This swimmer better be fertile or Monaco as a country will be cease to exist. Yes, it will be "game-over" for the principality of Monaco if the couple cannot produce a male heir; (yes, a male heir), for Monaco will revert into French hands. The has the details:

The Grimaldis, who have run the enclave for seven centuries, are the protectors of Monaco's special status. "It's a question of life and death," said Francois Caviglioli, who has covered the principality for decades for Nouvel Observateur. "If there was no prince, and therefore no heir, Monaco would return to France. The stability of the prince's family is crucial for Monaco's numerous banks and its financial sector which craves security, not social unrest. Then there's the image factor and tourism: lots of Europeans deprived of their own monarchies descend on Monaco to see what it's all about."


So, since the monarchy must have a male heir, what better mate to select but a swimmer. (We are pretty awesome, huh? ;-) We swimmers do represent the pinnacle of health don't you think and she is definitely not hard to look at either so I think they both made a solid choice. But who is this swimmer, Charlene Wittstock:

From Wikipedia:
Wittstock was a member of the women's 4×100 m medley South African team at the 2000 Summer Olympics, which finished fifth. She finished sixth at the 2002 FINA Short Course World Championships for the 200 m breaststroke. ...

She decided to leave Pretoria in January 2005 and returned to Durban; she then went to the north coast of KwaZulu Natal, where she joined a former Tuks Swimming coach, Brannislav Ivkovic. On 13 April 2007 Wittstock regained her title as South Africa’s 50 m women’s backstroke champion when she completed the 50 m backstroke final at the Telkom SA National Aquatic Championships in 30:16 seconds, to finish third behind Australia’s Sophie Edington and Brazil’s Fabíola Molina.

What has impressed me most about her is that her charity of choice is the Special Olympics:

On Friday, May 27 at an Amber Lounge charity fashion show during the 2011 Formula 1 Monaco Grand Prix weekend, Special Olympics announced that Charlene Wittstock has become a global ambassador for the movement, charged with promoting respect and inclusion for people with intellectual disabilities to a worldwide audience. Charlene has said that the Special Olympics movement is close to her heart because as a former athlete she values its role in "using the power of sport to change lives".

I like that! It denotes that her "humanity passport" is stamped humble and compassionate and now she will be the Queen of a principality that does not have have a prodigious history of being charitable. Monte Carlo is a principality that was founded by a coup d'état and as of late has suffered embarrassing banking/casino scandal that involved money laundering and a reputation as a tax haven and who refuses to list who has money there. This is all according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF). [Link].

Finally, I suspect you won't hear her dropping an R-bomb; or saying someone is a "retard," or something is "retarded" much like Summer Sanders did during her Olympic run, a remark that was socially irresponsible but is quite trendy in American vernacular as of late as is the "N-bomb" or the "F-bomb" for gay people.

Her quote went something like this:
I was lucky. Like, suppose my father had put in a tennis court instead (of a pool). I can't play tennis at all. I'd be in some retarded league right now instead of going to the Olympics.

Newsweek July27, 1992: [Link]
So, this is a good sign that some new blood is coming into this sketchy place, someone with a different perspective that involves charity and kindness. Hopefully these morals wash off on the Prince for politics starts at the top and works its way down.


Anonymous said...

Bringing up something Summer Sanders said almost 20 years ago -- Wow, that's relevant.

You couldn't just celebrate all that is good about Charlene Wittstock without taking a jab from your bully pulpit at someone who has nothing to do with this story at all? That's petty.

Tony Austin said...

No, it's factual. It's also a reminder to the current crop of swimmers to measure their words.

Anonymous said...

Tony, I'm a big fan, but not only the jab at Summer Sanders was not only unnecessary, it was also very much about "super-sensitiveness" to some words

I'm against any form of racism, and all for equal rights, but quite frankly, words are just words. I totally agree with Louis CK on this matter (take a look at the links if you want to laugh about it without taking it soooo seriously):

Tony Austin said...

You evoke C.K. so let me evoke a photo of my son and I on the front page of the DAILY NEWS taken circa 1995

I don't like to talk about personal life just my opinions but again, take a look at this photo:

That is me on the front page cover of the Daily news with my oldest son. He will remain nameless. Both he and I were the top story that week in the Los Angeles area and I was even quoted in the L.A. Times twice as I screamed at the School board not to close down special ed schools which the LAUSD was considering.

Outside I even screamed at the ACLU attorneys one-by-one telling them if they did not take my name off a class action lawsuit which I never asked to be on, I would sue them all individually as I wrote down their names.

Within three weeks the idea to shutter the schools was quickly dropped.

About my son: When my wife was 7-months pregnant, a person drove through a red right and t-boned her car. My son was born premature with severe brain damage. The night he was born his brain was bleeding so bad that the color of his cerebral spinal fluid turned black. They told me that he would be so brain damaged that he would not only be able to walk or talk, that he would not even be able to smile or even swallow. The next statement was: "Would you like to put him up for adoption?" It took me a decade to get over that. (He has had dozens of VP shunt surgeries and now his CSF (Cerebral Spinal Fluid) is clear.

I have seen seizures, near death experiences, and lots of blood. I have spent so much time at Children's Hospital and seen so much horror and death in neonatal intensive care units that I would trade 15-years in Iraq and Afghanistan for that to have never have happened to him.

My oldest son is 22 now, he cannot walk or talk but he smiles laughs likes to swim and hang out with me and he has exceeded expectations. I have three more kids as well all of whom who are all better looking then I am and that is as far as I will go.

When a parent with a disabled child/adult hears the word "retard" or "retarded" it is just as hurtful as all the other racial and sexual hate speech slurs you here in rap songs and pop culture. If C.K. wants to play the free speech card, so can I. Thus, I contrasted the insulting slurs of Summer Sanders from 20-years-ago with the deeds and accomplishments of a dignified woman today who also swam for their country. One I admire, one I don't. Both are celebrities.

Yes, I pick fights and I consider social, ethnic, or religious slurs as "fighting words" as well as bully speech whereas C.K. considers it "creative." I don't laugh about things like this. I stopped laughing about it a quarter-century ago.

Also, I looked far and wide for a Summer Sanders apology for those remarks and I could not find one and note that I don't link to Universal Sports anymore.

Glenn said...

It's amazing how we bring so much personal history with us into our business and professional lives. What we've been through as people shapes how we react and deal with situations.

So many of us have things in our lives that others would consider horrible, but that have shaped us into caring and considerate people.

Through much pain comes victory and joy, and the greatest joys are the ones that come with the most pain.

I'm sure your heart leaps every time your son smiles, and I thank you for sharing that.

Hey... I stopped listening to Howard Stern when he started making jokes about cancer. It wasn't a huge stand, but it was my own. ;)

Tony Austin said...

Thank you very much for saying what you said. I mean it.

Lisa said...

Tony, I had no idea. Thank you for sharing. I have a daughter with autism and I understand the pain and the sick feeling in your stomach that reaches your very soul when you hear someone say "retard" or "retarded."

For what it's worth, her greatest joy is the water. The moments she is most "connected" and communicative is in the water. If she's having a meltdown I put her in the tub and........peace........

So unless someone has walked in our shoes let them call us "oversensitive." I notice they post anonymously since they're so proud of their opinion. Since our children can't advocate for themselves we have to advocate for them. I don't follow Ms. Sanders in any capacity either. I teach my children that words as well as actions have consequences and I know that doesn't bother Ms. Sanders in the least but, like Glen says, at least I did what was right in my heart.

Your son is lucy to have you.

Anonymous said...


First of all I need to commend you on being such a great father and fighting for the best interests of your son! I, like most people who read this blog, had no idea. This just makes me admire you as a person even more (my admiration for you as a blogger is pretty high already).

Since I have no experience anywhere close to this one, I cannot pretend I understand or know how it feels. My point on my previous comment (and what I think is the point CK is trying to make) is that a lot of times people make up meanings for words that are a lot worse than what the word really means.

Trust me, I would NEVER refer to a disabled person as a 'retard' or 'retarded', and I believe THAT is a terrible use of that word. They have special needs, but also special traits, and I'm sure the joy they bring to the life of everyone around them largely surpasses the difficulties that come with it. However, when Summer Sanders referred to a 'retarded league', I don't think she meant anything regarding special needs adults or children. Might not have been the best choice of words, but it was not aimed at you or your son, or anyone else in a similar situation.

That is my point, people are so ultra-sensitive and uptight, and take everything so personal, that everyone has to watch everything they do and say, and we're soon going to be leaving in a make-believe society where nobody really says what they think. Again, my heart has been touched by you history, and congratulations on being such a stand-up person and father.

Anonymous said...

Tony, I can understand your perspective and where you are coming from now that you've explained it. I never took any issue issue with your sensitivity towards such comments. (I am the first anonymous poster, not the second).

However, while reporting what Summer Sanders said was indeed factual on your part, it's not clear to me why you chose to focus on a stupid comment she made as a teenager 20 years ago, especially within the context of the rest of this blog post.

The basic gist of this particular post up until the last few paragraphs is that Charlene Wittstock will bring a classy breath of fresh air to a royal family and country that desperately needs it.

Then out of the blue, here is something stupid Summer Sanders said 20 years ago. It just had nothing to do with the topic at hand, and it certainly didn't add anything to any of Ms. Wittstock's accomplishments. Don't you think they have enough power to stand on their own without knocking someone else down in the process?

I'm not going to try to change your mind about Summer Sanders. It's clear you don't like her for this or whatever other reasons, and you have an axe to grind and a forum to do it in. That's your issue.

But I'm finding it's a common theme in so many of your threads -- just having an axe to grind against all kinds of people (mostly American swimming celebrities, I note) whom you don't even know personally and who really shouldn't have any real effect on your life whatsover. I just don't understand being that angry. It certainly is tiring to read.

P.S. Now on a totally unrelated topic -- God bless you for all the love and care you've given to your son.

Tony Austin said...

Anonymous CK:

I appreciate your compliments and I understand your point of view but i disagree with it.

Also - I do believe in free speech and that is why I used mine.

Anonymous Summer Sanders:

I know, it sucks, I hold grudges and it indeed is a great source of unhappiness. However my uncontrollable urge to voice my opinion on things that bother me helps me a great deal with it.

Going after Summer Sanders was abrupt and nearly incoherent but I stared at it for a few minutes, maybe more, and said "Tony - do it!"

As for the celebrity stuff - you statement is about 20% true I believe.

Look at all the posts I made this month: Outdoor pool technology, sunscreen rules, a pool museum, which swimmer would make the best secret agent, a coaching clinic, toothpaste goggle uses, a 56-mile open water relay swim, Olympic pool blight in Athens, Alcatraz, that jerk who threaten to sue me and a retired school teacher, sketchy comments about Phelps...

...And how about that Dara Torres photo when she was 13-years-old?

I wrote about money flowing into the IOC, The London Aquatics webcam, that poor mentally ill guy that tried to swim to the Statue of Liberty, Swimming monkeys. (How cool is that?)

I can only go after American celebrities because that is the only language I know.

I did go after Frank Busch just a little. Phelps too... The IOC, the USOC, NBC, USA Swimming, but that certainly does not mean I was wrong.

Anonymous said...

Tony Austin, God bless you. That's all I want to say.

Tony Austin said...

Thank you, I am flattered. He is doing really well and is extraordinarily happy. He is the happiest kid of all. :-D