Why The Riviera Water Bike Challenge Is More Than Just Water Safety

Author image

Nancy Heslin   Forbes Monaco

Edgard John-Augustin

Edgard John-Augustin. Photo: Nancy Heslin

Since its launch in 2012, the Princess Charlene of Monaco Foundation has reached 730,000 children in 34 countries through three programs—Learn to Swim, Water Safety and Sport & Education.

The mission of the Foundation is close to the Princess’ heart. Not only did she see her 5-year-old cousin drown, but, in 2012, while heading out to surf with her brother in Agadir, Morocco, witnessed three young children drown on the beach.

Drowning can happen as quickly as 20 to 60 seconds. According to WHO, worldwide it is the third leading cause of unintentional injury death and the highest drowning rates are among children aged 1 to 4, followed by ages 5 to 9.

Over the years, I have heard not-so-hushed whispers that the Princess could have chosen a more “worthwhile” or “glamorous” cause. Afterall, this is Monaco.

I beg to differ.

The Foundation goes beyond teaching essential swim and water safety skills. “Being passionate about sport is an amazing gift if one considers the values that come with it. Sport has the ability to change and save lives, to accomplish great destiny and empower people,” Princess Charlene wrote in an editorial.

This is what makes her Foundation shine a light on Monaco’s sense of community and sportsmanship through charity events. All of which—whether swimming, golf or rugby—are 100% eco-friendly requiring only physical energy as fuel. This includes the Riviera Water Bike Challenge (RWBC), a 23-kilometer water bike relay race which took place this morning in front of the Solarium.

Nineteen teams gathered energetically at the Yacht Club at 9 a.m. for a pre-race breakfast and strategy session on using the Schiller Water Bikes, who have cosponsored every RWBC from the get-go. It was a Who’s-Who of sports celebrities, mostly Monaco residents: a medley of some forty Olympic medal winners (skiers, swimmers, runners), Former F1 World Champions, elite cyclists, rugby players, MMA fighters, and basketball and football players.

For me, it was a 6’2” newcomer to the race this year who truly exemplified how “sport has the ability to change lives and empower people,” like the Princess said.

Edgard John-Augustin—aka the Bionic Body—lost both of his legs below the knees in a car accident when he was four. The 2015 European IFBB Wheelchair Bodybuilding Champion and fitness icon was on Team A&S Estate with South African World Champion Mountain bike racer Greg Minnaar.

John-Augustin, 37, told Forbes Monaco. “Up until five years ago, I always wore pants because I was ashamed. At the gym, I would get changed in the bathroom because I wanted to hide my prosthetic legs. Only a few people close to me knew because it was shameful to talk about the subject.

“Then one day, a professional photographer shot me as para-athlete in shorts and posted it on Facebook. Even people who knew me but did not know about my legs said, ‘Wow, you should show the world anything is possible.’ So, I created my social media and it started from there. That day was a revelation.”

The married father of two added, “I try to show that it is about your mindset and how badly you want to reach your goal. I am blessed because people like what I am sharing.”

This is Monaco.

Oh, and who won?

John-Augustin’s A&S Estate Team took second after Team Serenity team—Gareth Wittstock, Secretary General of the Princess Charlene of Monaco Foundation, Terence Parkin, Ambassador of the Foundation, Caleb Ewan, Philip Deignan and David Tanner—won with a time of 2 hours and 50 minutes. Interpadel team (Bjørn Maaseide, Foundation Ambassador, Thor Hushovd and Federico Vella) came third. 

All funds raised from today’s third edition of the Riviera Water Bike Challenge are supporting the Foundation’s “Swim for Safety” project in Sri Lanka, to teach swimming and water safety to disadvantaged children. 

Photo: Eric Mathon/Palais Princier

Photo: Eric Mathon/Palais Princier

Photos: Nancy Heslin/Forbes Monaco

Author image

Nancy Heslin   Forbes Monaco

Nancy Heslin is an established journalist and lifestyle writer. She has been the Editor-in-Chief of Forbes Monaco magazine (bimonthly in English) , since the magazine's 2nd issue . Launched in November 2018, Forbes Monaco is part of the Forbes family, with its 7 million readers and 71 million monthly website visitors worldwide.