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SA wins gold, breaks world record at Paralympics

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SA wins gold, breaks world record at Paralympics

by BuaNews Online
08 Sep 2008
BuaNews Online
BuaNews Online

South Africa's paralympic athlete, Natalie du Toit broke the world record for the women's 100m butterfly on Sunday, earning herself a gold medal at the 2008 Paralympic Games in Beijing.

Du Toit, who lost her left leg in an accident, said she had given it her all during the race.

"It was really a challenge and tough journey before the Olympic Games, but I had tried my best today and had a really good race," said the 24-year-old, who had competed in the gruelling 10-kilometer open-water swim at last month's Olympics, finishing 16th among 25 able-bodied competitors.

"It was nice pool, it was amazing to swim in front of such a big crowds who are shouting for me, and I will continue," said Du Toit.

Seeing her coach coming, she left the crowds of more than 100 journalists, buried her head into his shoulders, with tears welling up in her bloodshot eyes.

"The paralympics is not so easy as you thought. Everybody is competitive and tonight it was very close. But I still made it as I worked hard and tried my best," she said.

She clocked one minute 06.74 seconds in the S9 women's 100m butterfly, chopping 0.05 seconds off the previous mark she set in 2006.

As the world and Paralympic record holder in each of the five Paralympic events she is competing in at the Water Cube, it might be easy for her to repeat the "superfish" Michael Phelps' epic glory.

But her painful journey to fulfil an Olympic dream was perhaps the toughest among all the sports.

Born in Cape Town, Du Toit was an up-and-coming swimmer who has been competing internationally since the age of 14.

After the swim talent failed to qualify for the Sydney Olympics, her life took a tragic turn in 2001.

Riding her semi-automatic motor bike back to school after a training session in the morning, Du Toit was hit by a car and sustained massive injuries to her left leg.

In February, her left leg was finally amputated at the knee after the doctors failed to save it with one week's efforts.

Three months later, before she had started walking again, the strong-minded girl was back in the pool instead of giving up her athletic career.

It seems that she belonged to the water and only swimming could make her feel whole again.

"I keep working hard along the ways here. I've seen a lot of ups and downs. But I am not a negativist. I know I have to see that in a good light way," she said.

In 2003, competing against able-bodied swimmers, Du Toit won the gold in the 800 meters freestyle at the All-Africa Games, despite the fact that using ones legs are vital for pushing off the block to start and pushing away from the wall during turns in the pool.

"In most of my time, I always compete with the able-bodied athletes.

"Paralympic arena is just one of my stops. No matter what kind of the competitions, you just get up there, race to their best and try your best, that's the most important thing for me," said Du Toit.

She didn't slow down the tough journey as the derailed dream still drove her to create miracles.

Though narrowly missing qualifying for the Athens Olympics in 2004, during the Paralympics that were held in the same city, she won five gold medals and one silver.

Du Toit is the hero of South Africa. She was the flag bearer at both opening ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics and Paralympics. She said it would "be a memory forever" in her rest life.

"It was my biggest honour to carry the flag for South Africa. I was nervous and afraid that the flag could wave to the people's faces," said a shy and beaming Du Toit.

"But both ceremonies were spectacular. When the torch was finally lit in the venue, it was very emotional. It was something you should never miss in your life," she said. - BuaNews-Xinhua

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