Natalie Du toit (1984 - )
The Order of Ikhamanga in
Profile of Natalie Du toit
As a young girl of 14, Natalie du Toit represented South Africa in swimming at the Commonwealth Games held in Kuala Lumpur in 1998. For such a young achiever the world was her oyster and Du Toit had every reason to have high hopes.
In a tragic scooter accident less than two years later, Du Toit lost a leg. Yet so strong was her determination to overcome her setback that within four weeks, before she had learnt to walk without assistance, she was back in the swimming pool.
Twelve months later she won the 50m and 100m disability freestyle swimming titles at the Commonwealth Games held in Manchester in 2002, breaking two world records in the process. Even more astonishing was her historic qualification for the 800m able-bodied open freestyle final – the first time ever that an athlete with a disability had qualified for a final – and her incredible second place in that event. Du Toit repeated this feat the following year, beating many other elite able-bodied swimmers at the 2003 All Africa and Afro-Asian Games.
Earlier this year, Du Toit was heralded as among the greats of Paralympic history when she took no fewer than six medals at the Athens Paralympics, five of which were gold and one silver. In the process she set four world records and one Paralympics record. Du Toit again made Paralympics history when she smashed the record for the 400m freestyle with a stunning 4 min 28.09 seconds win that lopped an incredible 7,06 seconds off the previous world record which she had also set in 2003.
Besides her truly amazing accomplishments as a swimmer, Du Toit is also an inspirational speaker, actively campaigning for the rights of disabled people in South Africa and worldwide. She believes that “society needs to understand that we are people first, who happen to have disabilities. There is nothing wrong with us. It is a lack of reasonable accommodation that prevents us from contributing meaningfully to the economy, sport, education, housing and transport”.
Natalie du Toit is a living example of tenacity and human triumph over adversity. She is a true inspiration to all South Africans and to young people the world over.
Du Toit was presented with the David Dixon Award as the outstanding athlete of the Commonwealth Games and was named South Africa's top Sportswoman of 2002. She is currently studying genetics – her passion - and physiology at the University of Cape Town. Her dream is to represent her country in the able-bodied Olympics in Beijing in 2008.