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South African swimmers get royal helping hand from Charlene

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April 22: Princess Charlene of Monaco reads a Monte Carlo tennis newspaper that has a headline which reads 'A Trophy Named Desire.' (Reuters)

South Africa's Olympic swimmers can expect to be treated like kings and queens while preparing for the London Games after an offer of help from a former team member turned princess.

Princess Charlene of Monaco, an ex-South Africa Olympic swimmer, has invited the swim team to camp in the principality in June for their final buildup to the games, Swimming South Africa said on Monday.

Charlene Wittstock, who married Prince Albert of Monaco last year, will provide royal aid through training facilities and accommodation, SSA spokesman Godfrey Monei told The Associated Press.

Details are still to be worked out, Monei said, but the princess will host the athletes for about a week around the Mare Nostrum swim meet on June 11-1.

"She said she would like to assist the team in its preparations for the Olympics," Monei said. "She will assist with facilities, maybe she will pay for accommodation for the swimmers."

The princess, 34, competed at the 2000 Games in Sydney where she was part of South Africa's 4x100 freestyle relay team that finished fifth. She met Prince Albert the same year at the Mare Nostrum, where she was competing.

Wittstock retired from competitive swimming in 2007 despite qualifying for the Beijing Olympics.

Monei said the princess had helped out some South Africans with accommodation for last year's Mare Nostrum, and she had indicated she would "definitely" help again ahead of the July 27-Aug. 12 Olympics.

South Africa is expected to announce its final swim team for London on about May 15, after which the princess would give more details on her offer, Monei said.

South Africa's swimming federation hopes training in the glittering principality will spur its swimmers on to an improved performance in London after the country left Beijing without a medal in the pool.

Breaststroke world record holder Cameron van der Burgh and rising star and 200 meters butterfly short course world champion Chad le Clos are expected to lead South Africa's medal hunt.

The pair were among nine swimmers to qualify for the Olympics at the weeklong South African nationals, which wrapped up on Sunday in Durban -- the city where Princess Charlene used to live before marrying her prince and taking up residence in Monte Carlo.