London - Almost a month after the South African anthem was last heard at the swimming pool in the east of London, it rang out through the blue heavens again on Thursday night after Natalie du Toit won her nation’s first medal of the London Paralympics.
It was Du Toit’s 12th Paralympic medal, her 11th gold, but there were little celebrations from the woman from Cape Town.
She has six more events to go, and is expected to win at least three “definitely” and should take medals in the others.
She may be conservative, but she will be a significant contributor to the predicted haul of 40 medals. Du Toit took the 100m breaststroke in a time of one minute 9.30 seconds, some way off her world and Paralympic record.
“I think I’m just relieved. That’s the first race over. I’m not really happy with the time, but it’s great to have that one over. It’s the last time I’ll ever swim 100m butterfly,” said Du Toit, who admitted that concentrating on swimming in the 10km marathon circuit for the past two years had dulled her sharpness over the short distances.
“I have done about five weeks of sprint training,” Du Toit said, “but I will get better as the meet goes on.”
Despite not feeling her best, Du Toit had dominated the morning heats, coming home almost two seconds ahead of Elizabeth Stone of the US, but well under three seconds shy of the world and Paralympic record she had set in Beijing four years ago.
She said that she was not at her best, and instead of sorrow and tears at contemplating what she has promised is her last competition as an athlete, Du Toit said she was glad the day had almost arrived when she could call it a day.
She will not go back on her decision to retire after the Paralympics, saying that she was at the end of her time as a swimmer.
She has other goals to pursue, other paths to follow. “I decided as a young girl that 28 was old enough and young enough to still achieve anything and still study and do things that are different. Training six or seven hours a day, it’s been impossible to study.”