Disabled Du Toit to compete in the Olympics
Going to the Olympics has been a lifelong dream for Natalie Du Toit, who will compete in the 10km open-water swim today. But what makes Du Toit’s journey to the Olympics so amazing is that she only has one leg.
Du Toit was involved in a tragic scooter accident in 2001, which resulted in her left leg being amputated below the knee.
For most, such a calamity would be the of a promising swimming career, but Du Toit’s disability, in a way, became her strength.
At the time of the accident, Du Toit was 17.
But rather than brood at her misfortune, Du Toit was determined to get back in the pool and regain normality to her life.
“I just wanted to get back to life again – swimming four hours a day – and I wanted to be able to walk again so that I would be able to do things by myself,” Du Toit said.
Determination can be a powerful springboard, and exactly 174 days after her leg was amputated, the spirited South African jumped back into the pool.
“I didn’t know if I would be able to swim. I didn’t know how fast I would be able to swim,” she said.
But sure enough Du Toit would swim again. First in short distance events, and then going on to compete at the 2002 Commonwealth Games.
Du Toit narrowly missed qualification for the Athens Olympics, but went on to win five gold medals and one silver at the Paralympics.
Then, on May 3, 2008, Du Toit qualified for the Beijing Olympics after finishing fourth fastest in the 10km open water race at the Seville World Championships.
It was an eighteen year dream come true for this battler, who at one stage feared she may never walk again.
“I have always had a dream to take part in an Olympic Games, and losing my leg didn’t change anything,” she said.
Du Toit is only the second amputee to qualify for the games, after George Eyser, an American gymnast who won six medals despite having a wooden leg.
First or last, medal or not, Du Toit has already won the hearts of people all around the world.