WATCH: Natalie du Toit ‘grateful’ for Laureus award nomination
BERLIN – “You look back and you think ‘Wow, this is how far you’ve come’.” That was how Natalie du Toit summed up her emotions on the eve of the Laureus Sports Awards on Monday, where she has been nominated for the Best Sporting Moment of the last 20 years.
Swimmer Du Toit made history by becoming only the third amputee to take part in an Olympic Games when she competed in the 10km marathon swim in Beijing in 2008.
She had just missed out on the 2004 Athens Olympics, so qualifying and then finishing in 16th position in the marathon final four years later made it all the more sweeter.
Having had her left leg amputated at the knee in 2001 following an accident while riding her scooter – when she was hit by another car – Du Toit got back into the pool just a few months later, and went on to qualify for the 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester.
The 36-year-old also won a staggering 13 gold and two silver medals in the Paralympics, and retired in 2012.
Now she has made the top five list for the Best Sporting Moment, which is decided by a public vote that closed on Sunday. She is up against some big names in Sachin Tendulkar, Mick Schumacher, Chapecoense Football Club and Chinese double amputee mountain climber Xia Boyu.
Du Toit told IOL Sport on Monday in Berlin that she sometimes had doubts that she could become an Olympian.
“I guess like everybody, there are moments where you don’t believe it’s possible. But it’s important to have the support behind you, and I talk a lot about people who were backing me and supporting me – when you are on tour, the good messages and stuff keeps on going, because you can get very nervous and forget everything,” she said.
“If I look back now, and had to get back into the water now, I have no idea how I swam the times that I did. But I look at the team that I trained with, and the team around me… When I was negative and everybody else was positive, it kind of pulled me through.
“We talk a lot about challenges that one goes through, in terms of politics and all of that within South African sport specifically, and one kind of realises the impact that those around you had on you achieving all of that.
“Looking back, I’m just grateful to say that I was able to just not get back in now, because it is all achieved and all – kind of ticked the box – and to use those lessons and plough it back into others and into life as well. I think that’s a special place to be as well.”
Du Toit clinched a Laureus award in 2010 – the World Sportsperson of the Year with a Disability, for “breaking down the barriers between disabled and able-bodied sport” – and now the 2020 ceremony has taken her right back to the accident.
“All the support that you have along the way, of starting again and trying to qualify for the Olympic Games and Commonwealth Games, brings back a flood of memories, positives. You look back and you think ‘Wow, this is how far you’ve come’, knowing it’s two decades (since the accident),” she said.
“Being part of Laureus and an ambassador, and I think in 2004 or 2005 possibly being part of the awards, and winning the award in 2010, it kind of brought in all of those moments, and to be part of the top 20 list and what they achieved, I’m just humbled. And it’s a great experience as well.”
* The Laureus Sports Awards will be broadcast live on SuperSport 2 (channel 202 on DSTV) from 8pm SA time on Monday night.
* Follow @ashfakmohamed and @IOLsport on Twitter for live updates from the red carpet ahead of the awards ceremony.