London - South Africa raked in three medals on Tuesday with Natalie du Toit stretching her margin as South Africa’s most successful Paralympian with her 15th medal on Tuesday night, her 12th gold medal in three Games, and dedicating it to a recently departed friend.
“This is for Cathy Doyle who was involved in Central Gauteng swimming for so long,” said Du Toit, who won the 400-metres freestyle in convincing style. “Cathy was a special person who had done so much for me and for swimming. She was supposed to be officiating here tonight, and I was thinking of her all the way through the swim.”
It was a dominant performance by Du Toit on a day when South Africa picked up the pace in winning medals.
Not long after Du Toit had swum, Shireen Sapiro won bronze in the 100m backstroke, the event she had won in Beijing when she had finished in a dead heat with Sophie Pascoe of New Zealand. Pascoe had finished second behind Canadian winner Ashley Mortimer. Emily Gray was seventh in the 400m freestyle behind Du Toit.
Earlier in the heats Sapiro had set a new Africa record.
“I’m so glad this race is over,” said Sapiro. “It’s been sitting on my back for the last two years. Being the defending champion has been strange. Now I can relax and go out and race my next two races hard.”
Michael Louwrens, at 52 the oldest man in the South African team, earlier won bronze in the shot put for those who suffer from lower limb paralysis.
Louwrens said his latest bronze medal meant more to him than his previous gold medals as the standards were so much higher at this Paralympic Games.
“I was full of doubt before I started this morning and thought I would just give it my best,” said Louwrens.
“To be honest, I’m a little disappointed as I was hoping to reach 14 metres, but I’m more excited about this bronze medal than any of my previous gold medals. The standards are huge, they’ve jumped in leaps and bounds... .”
Louwrens managed a season’s best of 13.64 metres, behind Russia’s Alexey Ashapatov’s heave of 16.20m.
Glowing after his success, Louwrens said he was aware the South African team had not done as well as expected, but Paralympic sport was advancing at such a rapid pace, it was hard to keep up.
Louwrens was fouled for lifting his body from the seat before his first throw on Tuesday. He worried that he might repeat his horror show from London two months ago, when he was nailed for the same thing six times in a row during competition. But he just carried on.
“I was disqualified six times here in London when I came here about two months ago. I couldn’t understand it then and I can’t now. I have thrown like this for 20 years,” he said. “So I didn’t change anything and just carried on. But obviously it sits in the back of your mind. It was a huge field (18 of us), so it was quite nerve-wracking once I got that bronze throw but had to wait and see how the other guys did. To tell the truth, I would have liked to throw 14m, I think I had it in me, but I’m just relieved to finish in the medals.”
The bronze was his fourth Paralympic medal.
“Now I’ve got three golds and this bronze. All I need is a silver, so maybe Rio in four years time. If I can keep my strength up, I see no reason why I can’t do it again.”
Natalie du Toit S9, 100m butterfly.
Charl Bouwer, S13, 50m freestyle.
Natalie du Toit S9, 400m freestyle.
Teboho Mokgalagadi, T35, 100m.
Dyan Buis, T38, 100m.
Charl Bouwer, S13, 100m freestyle, 100m backstroke.
Oscar Pistorius, T44, 200m.
Achmat Hassiem S10, 100m butterfly.
Jonathan Ntutu T13, 100m.
Anrune Liebenberg T46, 200m.
Hendri Herbst S11, 100m.
Union Sekailwe T38, 400m.
Michael Louwrens F57-58, shotput
Shireen Sapiro S10, 100m backstroke.