August 02 2002 at 11:33PM
Manchester – Natalie du Toit, with two golden world Commonwealth Games records in disabled swimming and a finish in the 800m open freestyle, had the crowd on their feet at the Manchester Aquatic Centre on Friday night.
Du Toit trailed the 800m field that was led to gold by England’s Rebecca Cooke in 8min 28,54sec, but the standing ovation was for the courageous one-legged woman who finished eighth in 9:13,57sec.
“That was amazing,” said Du Toit who swam 1000m on Friday. “The crowd were fabulous. But I’m quite tired. It’s not easy to taper for the sprint and then do long distance.”
Du Toit captured the hearts of the crowd when, in a class of her own, she broke her second world record with a 1min 02,83sec in the EAD 100m freestyle heats in the morning session, then swam to gold in the evening.
No wonder Mancunians call her the Wonder Girl of South Africa
The Capetonian, who broke the EAD 50m freestyle world record Wednesday, was mobbed by the international media after leaving the pool and boosting South Africa’s medal standings to 32.
Within minutes of singing the national anthem on the podium after collecting her second gold medal of the Games in the 100m freestyle for Elite Athletes with Disabilities (EAD) leg-amputee Du Toit had returned to poolside to race the 800m freestyle.
No wonder Mancunians call her the Wonder Girl of South Africa. When she took to the water, she made history by becoming the first EAD athlete to compete in a Games open race.
“If I can do this to bring a bond together between disabled and able-bodies swimmers, and help swimming in that sense, then it’s a pleasure. I still want to continue competing in open competition.”
Mandy Loots was ecsatic after her silver in 59,68 behind Australia’s Petria Thomas (58,57) for the women’s 100m butterfly.
Two more medals are assured this weekend
“It was awesome. My first medal! I’ve waited a long, long time for this,” said Loots who made her Commonwealth Games debut eight years ago in Victoria when part of the medley relay team.
She swam 12th in the 100 and 200 fly at the Sydney Olympics.
“It’s been two Olympics and two Commonwealth Games. I cannot believe that I’ve finally got a medal. That was just off my best time. I’m just so happy to be making the podium.”
Ryk Neethling, silver medallist in the 1500m at Kuala Lumpur ’98 before going for the shorter distances, won bronze in the 100 freestyle against Aussie “Thorpedo” Ian Thorpe’s Games record 49,73.
Terence Parkin challenged strongly for third through the first three disciplines of the 400m individual medley won by Juston Norris of Australia (4:16,95) then conceded to sixth in the freestyle leg in 4:21,05.
South Africa – with seven gold, 13 silver and 12 bronze – are now only two shy of the 34 medals (nine gold, 11 silver, 14 bronze) they bagged at Kuala Lumpur 1998.
And two more medals are assured this weekend – the best bet being boxer Kwanele Zulu, who is within reach of a gold as he takes on Australian Daniel Geale in the welterweight final on Saturday.
The pair of Shaun Addinall and Gerry Baker have at least a bowls bronze guaranteed.
The South Africans beat Martin McHugh and Gary McCloy of Northern Ireland in their quarterfinal of the men’s pairs competition on Friday to advance to the semifinals.
The SA men’s hockey team are also in with a shout on Sunday, despite going down 3-1 to Australia in Friday’s semifinal.
South Africa were locked at 1-1 with Australia until they conceded a goal with 20 minutes to go. With a minute go they conceded an easy goal to finish 3-1 and play for bronze against Pakistan on Sunday, while Australia take on New Zealand for gold.
In the pool, Sarah Poewe (100m breaststroke), Charlene Whittstock (50m back), Brett Petersen (50m breast), Theo Verster (100m butterfly) and Gerhard Zandberg (100m back) all made it to the weekend’s finals.
In shooting, India’s Jaspal Rana won gold in the 25m standard pistol shooting event, beating South Africa’s Frikkie van Tonder (silver) and England’s Michael Gault (bronze).
David Dodds was narrowly edged out of top spot in the open bore rifle competition by David Calvert of Northern Ireland.
In the men’s 25m rapid fire pistol event Allan McDonald came in third behind Canada’s Metodi Igorov.
Meanwhile, the SA netball team wrapped up their Games with a 71-27 victory over Wales, for fifth position, the Springbok sevens rugby outfit began their campaign with a 26-12 win over Tonga.
JP van Zyl, fifth in the 20km scratch race Thursday night, suffered drama that cost him a 30km points race medal when the steering column on his bicycle came loose with 24 laps and two sprint laps to go.
His support fixed the problem quickly and he fought his way back into the bunch to eventually surge for fifth.
He was so angry afterwards that he punched his bike. – Sapa
Soaking up the applause: “If I can do this to bring a bond together between disabled and able-bodies swimmers, and help swimming in that sense, then it’s a pleasure.” Photo: AP