Du Toit will compete in the women’s 10-kilometre marathon swim. She booked her place by finishing fourth in the 10-kilometre race at the World Open Water Swimming Championships in Seville in May 2008. Now she has the chance to become the first athlete with an amputated leg to win an Olympic medal in 56 years. The last amputee to win an Olympic medal was Hungarian pistol shooter Karoly Takacs, who won gold at the 1948 and 1952 Games. Du Toit won widespread admiration in 2001 when her left leg was amputated below the knee following a motorbike accident. Just a few months after leaving the hospital she was back in the swimming pool. Since than she has notched up a string of successes. Her record of victories, published on southafrica.info, shows the courage and strength she has shown since 2001.
Update: The Chicago Tribune has just reported the following, which some will find food for further thought: “Natalie Du Toit, a swimmer who will compete in both the Olympics and Paralympics, was South Africa’s flag bearer. `It’s Women’s Day tomorrow around the world, so they wanted a woman,’ Du Toit said.” I just watched live coverage of the parade of nations at the opening ceremony myself on CBC, and though Ron Maclean mentioned du Toit as the flag-bearer (and she was shown carrying the flag), no further comment was made about her during that brief introduction.
And a reminder of a great video that Jo Faulkner pointed us to previously from Al Jazeera on disability and elite sport that focuses on Natalie du Toit and Oscar Pistorius. It can be viewed right here. The video includes interviews with, and training and competition footage of, the athletes named.