Natalie du Toit is a South African swimmer that is best known for winning gold medals at both the Commonwealth Games and the 2004 Paralympic Games. She is one of the successful disabled swimmers of all times, and was one of the two Paralympians that took part in the 2008 Summer Olympics that took place in Beijing with the other being Natalie Partyka. She is the third amputee of all time to qualify for the Olympics, where she came in 16th place for the 10K Marathon.

Her Early Life

Born in the city of Cape Town, Natalie became involved in international swimming at the age of 14. When she was 17, she was involved in a car accident while riding her scooter, which ultimately led to her having her left leg amputated at the knee. Just three months after the accident, she began to walk again, and was training in the pool in preparation for the 2002 Commonwealth Games. She adopted the use of a prosthetic limb which allows her to swim properly, often at the level of other, non-disabled swimming athletes.

Her Swimming Career

Du Toit took place in her first competition at the age of 14 when she swam in the 1998 Commonwealth Games. Some years later in 2001, after she had had her left amputated, she would swim in the 2002 Commonwealth Games that took place in the city of Manchester, when she was just 18 years old. She would go on to win the multi-disability 50 metre freestyle event, along with the 100m freestyle where she would achieve record times.

It was the kind of comeback that’s usually reserved for when people enjoy blackjack games for real money. This was the same time that she made disabled sporting history by qualifying for the able-bodied freestyle 800m final at the Olympics, making her the first disabled athlete of all time that qualified for a full, able-bodied event. During the closing of the Commonwealth Games in Manchester, du Toit was awarded with the David Dixon Award, citing her as an Outstanding Athlete of the Games.

Once again in 2003, she would compete in the 800m able-bodied competition, where she would win gold for the All-Africa Games, along with a silver for the 800m freestyle and bronze for the 400m freestyle for the Afro-Asian Games.

The Olympics

Although du Toit narrowly missed qualifying for the Olympics that took place in 2004, she would receive a qualification for the Beijing 2008 Olympics after she had finished in fourth place for the 10km open water race that took place during the Open Water World Championships in Spain. At the 2008 Olympics, she took part in the women’s 10km race, where she finished in 16th place, 1:22 minutes behind the winner. She would go on to win a total of five gold medals for the 2008 Summer Paralympics, making her one of the most accomplished participants of all time.

Natalie du Toit announced her official retirement from swimming, which took place at the end of the 2012 Summer Paralympics.