I Bet Natalie Du Toit Swim Faster Than You!

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I Bet Natalie Du Toit Swim Faster Than You!

BORN IN CAPE TOWN, South Africa, Natalie Du Toit was already a rising star in swimming when she was young.

At the tender age of 14, Natalie Du Toit set multiple national age group records in both medley events and she competed in the Kuala Lumpur Commonwealth Games in 1998.

Two years later, at 16, she nearly qualified for the 2000 Sydney Olympics in three events.

With her strong determined character, many believed she would go on to bring glory for the home nation in future years.

In February 2001, a then 17 year old Natalie, went about school in the usual manner - riding her scooter. Unknown to her, what would soon happen would change her life forever. A reckless driver exiting a parking lot crashed right into her left leg. The devastation was obvious, and she could see right before her eyes, her contorted legs. Many would have fainted on the spot, but not Natalie; she stayed awake all the while.

Her doctors tried their best to save her legs, knowing the implications on her career. It was to no avail.

As the doctors amputated her leg below the knee, many wonder what the impact on her would be. This was a young woman whose broad shoulder lies the hope and pride of South Africa.

She was devastated but not out. She was determined to get back to life again.

"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 mysel," she says.

Natalie was no ordinary woman, and we would witness it soon, and i mean real soon.

Commonwealth Games in Manchester In 2002, just one year after the fateful accident, Natalie Du Toit, then 18 years old, won both the multi-disability 50 m freestyle and the multi-disability 100 m freestyle in world record time at the Commonwealth Games in Manchester.

This determined lady had begun swimming almost as soon as she could. Her passion was in swimming, and it was calling to her everyday when she was in hospital.

To some cynics, her achievements as a disabled athlete could be seen as an easy feat. After all she was outstanding when she was a able bodied swimmer. Well check this out - She made sporting history by qualifying for the 800 m able-bodied freestyle final - marking the first time an amputee in the modern era had raced in the finals of an able-bodied international swimming competition.

It was no surprise that she was presented with the first David Dixon Award for Outstanding Athlete of the Manchester Commonwealth Games.

Natalie Du Toit did not stop there. She had her sights on higher goals.

Since she was a six-year-old, Natalie had a burning ambition - she wants to compete in the Olympic Games. Now for those who are not familiar, there are two events - Olympics and Paralympics. One for the able bodied, and the other for the disabled.

It would seem almost impossible for her to achieve this goal, given her disadvantage. But Natalie was determined. And she would not let anything stop her.

On 3rd May 2008, Natalie Du Toit would make history by being the first amputee to qualify for the 2008 Beijing Olympics after finishing fourth in the 10km open water race at the Open Water World Championships in Seville, Spain.

On 20th August 2008, Natalie would eventually finished a creditable 16th out of a field of 24 swimmers, in a time of two hours and 33.6 seconds.Considering that she was just over one minute behind winner Larisa Iichenko, she had absolutely nothing to be ashamed off.

Said Natalie: 'I Never Thought Of Myself As Being Disadvantaged'

What a powerful statement. Her website also boasts the inspiring motto: "Be everything you want to be."

Natalie is an inspiration not just to the disabled, but to everyone. She is yet another living proof that, no matter what your circumstances are, as long as your desire is strong enough, you can achieve it.

Natalie has achieved the first of her three goals - to compete at the Olympics as an able bodied swimmer open water.Now she has her sights on the remaining two.

* To experience a holiday at the Kruger National Park

* To be able to run

With her steely determination, i would not bet against it.

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