Natalie du Toit's left leg was amputated below the knee in 2001. She has gone on to compete against – and often beat – able-bodied swimmers at the highest level.
At 16, she nearly qualified for the 2000 Sydney Olympics in three events.
People sensed great things were in store for the strong, determined swimmer; in 2004, Athens would become her playground.
Then in 2001, those plans abruptly changed. Having completed her morning workout, Natalie eased her motor scooter into Monday rush-hour traffic and headed to school.
Just down the street from her pool, a careless driver exiting a parking lot ran directly into Natalie’s left leg. The scene was gruesome; the devastation was immediately obvious:
“I kept saying, ‘I’ve lost my leg, I’ve lost my leg“. Her team mates rushed to her. Traffic snarled. The scene: total, horrible chaos. A motorcycle policeman racing to the accident crashed headfirst into a truck and had to be airlifted to a hospital.
The tragedy of life does not lie in not reaching your goals;
the tragedy of life lies in not having goals to reach for.
It is not a disgrace not to reach for the stars,
but it is a disgrace not to have stars to reach for.
‘Swim your own race!’
What Natalie has done (and is still busy doing) to overcome her adversity and the lessons she’s learned along the way, she believes holds true regardless of one’s age, sex, race, religion, nationality or financial standing. It all comes from self-belief – an exceptionally powerful tool, if we could just learn how to use it correctly every day.
Since her accident, Natalie du Toit switched to longer events – from 200m and 400m individual medley to 800m and 1 500m freestyle – to make up for her loss of speed with only one leg. But she made no adjustment to her mental outlook!
Since then, she has become one of the most successful disabled athletes of all times and an inspiration to many!
Her goal was to compete as an able-bodied swimmer at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. This goal materialized on the 20 August 2008, when she competed in the 10km ladies open water marathon, in Shunyi.
The five Gold Medals at the 2008 Paralympic Games made Natalie du Toit the most successful athlete in South Africa. She was further awarded the Whan Youn Dai Achievement Award.
This award is presented to 2 athletes, one male and one female athlete and is given to people with disability who have achieved excellence through exceptional performances in sport and life.
Australia, South Africa, United Kingdom, United States of America