Cape Town — “I am so privileged to have had this wonderful career, but I just feel it’s time.” Those were the words of Charl du Toit moments after he claimed a silver medal in the men’s T37/T38 100m final at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham on Wednesday night.
The 29-year-old from Pretoria, who is based in Stellenbosch, ended off with a podium finish in a new T38 Commonwealth record of 11.54 seconds, with Australian Evan O’Hanlon winning the event in 11.23, which was a Games record in the T37 class.
Du Toit, who has cerebral palsy, capped a distinguished athletics career in fine style at the Alexander Stadium after missing out on the podium at last year’s Tokyo Paralympics.
Having won gold medals at the 2016 Rio Games in both the 100m and 400m T37 classes — as well as the 200m and 400m titles at the 2017 world championships in London — Du Toit expressed his disappointment afterwards as he finished eighth and fifth in those respective events in Tokyo.
He was persuaded to continue for another year, and the second-placed finish was a silver lining for him.
“I’m officially announcing my retirement from athletics, and this was officially my last race. I couldn’t have asked for a better storybook ending. Tears of joy, tears of excitement, and this was actually a very special race for me,” Du Toit said after the race.
“I can’t wait to get to my coach now. I was so privileged to have my fiancé over here — it’s her first time overseas, first time seeing me in action. And I had my brother and his wife here as well, and their kids. It was so special. I am so privileged to have had this wonderful career, but I just feel it’s time.
“It was like Rio déjà vu. When I got out of the blocks, I was like ‘Sho, I did a good start’. I’ve been really struggling this season to put it together, and this was my best race of the season.
“When I got to 50 metres, I was like ‘Just hold your form and just go’, and I didn’t look back. I was like maybe second, maybe third, and all of a sudden, I realised I am just going, and it was such fun!”
Du Toit, who is studying towards a master’s degree at Stellenbosch University — on the impact of physical education on the attitudes and motivational changes of learners with a physical impairment — added that he will remain in the sport going forward.
“I still had to learn a lot about myself after Tokyo, and well done to our coach Suzanne Ferreira, who has guided me so well. I would have regretted not going on one more year, and I needed this year for myself and the rest of my life, to just enjoy athletics again, and that’s exactly what happened,” he said.
“I am not done with athletics — athletics is in my blood. I grew up with athletics, so I will definitely be involved somewhere. But as an athlete, I feel it’s time to call it (a day). Not many athletes have an opportunity to end their career in this way … It was awesome, and I really enjoyed every second of this.”