London: It was 11 years and seven months ago that Natalie du Toit lost her leg in a motor accident and, if the course of her life had sent her on a different path, she would not have become SA’s most successful Paralympian.
Du Toit won a tight 100m butterfly in one minute and 9.30 seconds to win her 12th medal and SA’s first of the 14th Paralympic Games. It is Du Toit’s third and final Games, and the woman who has become a symbol for disabled swimmers stood tall last night.
It was a strong swim from Du Toit, who had said she didn’t feel quite in the swing of things as she started her final Paralympics with the country’s first medal of what is hoped to be a haul of about 40. She looked a little off in the morning heats, but said she would get stronger.
“Coming back from seeing the Olympics and everyone has been waiting and waiting and waiting, and finally the first day came and I don’t think I’m quite ready for it yet,” said Du Toit, whose 12 medals, 11 of them gold, equals the haul of Fanie Lombaard.
Asked about her emotions going into her final competition as an athlete, Du Toit looked a little conflicted.
“I must admit, with everything I have gone through, I’m quite relieved. To be able to walk away and know that I have achieved everything I want to achieve, and that there is nothing else I could have done. I’m more relieved than anything else,” she said.
“That’s the first race over.