Natalie du Toit, South Africa’s golden swimmer

Natalie du Toit, a South African swimmer, is best known for the gold medals she won at the 2004 and 2008 Paralympic Games as well as the Commonwealth Games, being one of the most successful disabled athletes of all time. Born in Cape Town on 29 January 1984, she often competes alongside with able bodied athletes. She comes from a working-class environment, and maybe that’s where she learned to be stubbornly determined.  Her mother is a receptionist and father is a foreman. She has an older brother.

Du Toit became a rising star in swimming when she was still very young. At the very young age of 14 she set numerous national age group records in a mixture of events, and competed in the Kuala Lumpur Commonwealth Games of 1998.  Two years later, when she was only 16, she almost qualified for the 2000 Sydney Olympics in three events. At that stage it became evident that she would go on to bring glory for South Africa in the years to come.

In February 2001 when she was 17 year old she was riding her scooter back to school after swimming practice when a reckless driver driving out of a parking place crashed right into her left leg.  The attending doctors tried their best to save her legs, knowing the implications on her future career. Their effort was to no avail, which resulted in her left leg being amputated below the knee.

Just a couple of months after leaving hospital, Du Toit, the very determined young sportswoman, went back in the pool, and inspired people with her determination and winning attitude. Just a year after the accident – aged 18, she became the first athlete with a disability to qualify for a final in an able-bodied event.   She won both the multi-disability 50m freestyle and the multi-disability 100m freestyle in world record time at the 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester. It came as no surprise when she was presented with the first David Dixon Award for Outstanding Athlete of the Manchester Commonwealth Games. She swims without the aid of a prosthetic limb.

Du Toit completed her school education at the Reddam House in Cape Town. She then went on and studied for a Bachelor of Science degree at the University of Cape Town. She majored in Genetics and Physiology.  Du Toit is a South African with a dream. She was only 6 when she began to work on her burning ambition – she wanted to compete in the Olympic Games.

Apart from a number of South African sports awards (including Sportswoman of the Year in 1984); she has won a host of medals around the world in both the open category and disabled swimming events. Du Toit is currently studying sports management through ETA (ExerciseTeachersAcademy).

In 2003 she competed against able-bodied swimmers, and won gold in the 800 metres freestyle at the All-Africa Games as well as a silver medal in the 800 metres freestyle and bronze in the 400 metres freestyle at the Afro-Asian Games. In 2004 she was voted 48th in the Top 100 Great South Africans by the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC).

Natalie du Toit’s major sporting achievements

  • 50 m freestyle swimming EAD (multi-disability) gold – Commonwealth Games (2002)
  • 100 m freestyle swimming EAD (multi-disability) gold – Commonwealth Games (2002)
  • David Dixon Award for outstanding athlete – Commonwealth Games (2002)
  • 800 m freestyle swimming gold medal – All-Africa Games (2003)
  • 800 m freestyle swimming silver medal – Afro-Asian Games (2003)
  • 400 m freestyle swimming bronze medal – Afro-Asian Games (2003)
  • 100 m S9 backstroke swimming silver medal – Paralympics (2004)
  • 50 m S9 freestyle swimming gold medal – Paralympics (2004)
  • 100 m S9 butterfly swimming gold medal – Paralympics (2004)
  • 100 m S9 freestyle swimming gold medal – Paralympics (2004)
  • 200m SM9 individual medley swimming gold medal – Paralympics (2004)
  • 400 m S9 freestyle swimming gold medal – Paralympics (2004)
  • 3 Gold Medals Paralympic World Championships Manchester (2005)
  • 100 m freestyle swimming EAD (multi-disability) gold – Commonwealth Games (2006)
  • 50 m freestyle swimming EAD (multi-disability) gold – Commonwealth Games (2006)
  • In 2006 Du Toit also won six gold medals at the fourth IPC World Swimming Championships
  • 100 m S9 butterfly swimming gold medal – Paralympics (2008)
  • 50 m S9 freestyle gold medal  (WR 29.52 seconds) – Paralympics (2008)
  • 100 m S9 freestyle gold medal – Paralympics (2008)
  • 400 m S9 freestyle gold medal (WR 4:28.09) – Paralympics (2008)
  • 200 metres S9 individual medley gold medal – Paralympics (2008)

Du Toit qualified to compete at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, making history by being the first female amputee swimmer ever to qualify for the Olympics. South Africa chose her to carry their flag at the 2008 Summer Olympics opening ceremony in Beijing, and she also carried the flag at the opening ceremony of the 2008 Summer Paralympics in Beijing.  She was the first ever disabled athlete to have this honour in an able-bodied Olympics.

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