Natalie du Toit
History was made in Beijing in 2008 when South Africa’s Natalie du Toit became the first ever amputee to qualify for the Olympic Games, where she finished 16th in the 10km open water swim. At the time she was one of only two athletes to have competed in both the Olympic Games and the Paralympic Games. Later, In the Paralympics, she became the toast of South Africa after winning five gold medals.
South Africa’s Olympic Committee chose Natalie to carry their flag at both the Olympic Games and the Paralympic Games, making her the first athlete to carry a flag in both Games in a single year
In December 2009 she was presented with the order of ‘Ikhamanga In Gold’, by President Zuma, the highest honour any South African athlete can receive.
Natalie had been a promising young swimmer, when in February 2001 she had her left leg amputated at the knee after being hit by a car while riding her scooter after swimming practice. Three months later, before she had even started walking again, she was back in the pool, with the goal of competing in the 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester.
In Manchester, Natalie, who was then 18, won both the multi-disability 50 metres freestyle and the multi-disability 100 metres freestyle in world record time. She also made sporting history by qualifying for the 800 metres able-bodied freestyle final – the first time that an athlete with a disability had qualified for the final of an able-bodied event. At the closing of the Manchester Commonwealth Games, she was named Outstanding Athlete of the Games.
She narrowly missed qualifying for the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, but won five gold and one silver at the subsequent Paralympic Games. At the 2006 Commonwealth Games she repeated her previous performance by winning the same two events she had in Manchester.
Swimming without the aid of a prosthetic limb, throughout her career Natalie has continued to set new benchmarks for swimmers with a disability by winning numerous events and setting ground-breaking records.
In 2010 she was named Laureus World Sportsperson of the Year with a Disability, having also been nominated in 2004.