Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Disabled Natalie in the Finals with Able Bodied Swimmers

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Disabled Natalie in the Finals with Able Bodied Swimmers

Article excerpt

Byline: HUGH DOUGHERTY

WHEN Natalie du Toit lost her left leg in a motor scooter accident, she refused to give up her dream of being a top-level swimmer.

While her doctors and coaches feared her career as an athlete was over, the young South African did not give up hope that she could still compete at the highest level.

Tomorrow, she will complete an unprecedented triumph at the Commonwealth Games in Manchester, when she swims in the finals of the able-bodied 800 metres freestyle event - having

already won gold in the disabled 50 metres freestyle.

The 20-year-old swimmer from Capetown is the first to compete in both the able-bodied and disabled sections of the games, and is a serious contender for a medal in both, having recorded a respectable time in the heat for the 800 metres.

Du Toit is able to compete in both ablebodied and disabled events because the Commonwealth Games are the first international sports gathering to include both categories, unlike previous events which ran the disabled games following on from the able-bodied.

Under the banner of "elite athletes with disabilities", medals won in the disabled section count towards a country's standing in the medals table - but only du Toit is a contender for medals in both.

The games are the first international event she has competed in since returning to fulltime swimming after her accident and also the first time she has competed as a disabled athlete.

Out of the pool, she uses an artificial leg and has a titanium plate in her other leg, and also endured skin grafts and suffered severe damage to nerve endings in her legs following the crash, which happened in February last year as she rode to school after a training session.

Within three months of the accident she had returned to training, confounding doctors with her determination, but admitting it was initially "excruciatingly painful".

"I am still able to walk, run and even cycle," she said. …

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