October 11 2010 at 07:29am
Natalie Du Toit celebrates finishing the Women’s 50m Freestyle S9 Final in first place and wins the gold medal.
By Kevin McCallum
Natalie du Toit always knew that 2010 was going to be her last Commonwealth Games as she heads towards retirement in two years’ time, but that didn’t make her last race on Saturday any easier.
She will leave Delhi today headed for home with three gold medals to add to an impressive haul from a career that has transcended sport and made the gap between the able-bodied and disabled feel a lot narrower.
At the Dr SPM Aquatic Complex last week, she won the 50m freestyle, 100m freestyle and, on Saturday afternoon, the 100m butterfly.
There were tears in her eyes on the podium after the 50m free as she realised it would be the last time she would swim it.
She choked up again on Saturday as she sung the anthem and knew this would be her fourth and last Commonwealth Games.
“I was definitely emotional,” said Du Toit. “I’ve been swimming for 20 years and I always new I was going to stop when I turned 28. This is my last Commonwealth Games. It’s come pretty quickly, quicker than I expected.
“I wanted to go out with three golds. I’m not all that happy with the times I’ve done, but I’m very happy with the wins. The Commonwealth Games have been really special to me.
Du Toit made her debut for South Africa as a 14-year-old in Kuala Lumpur in 1998.
Then, after just missing out for selection to the Sydney Olympics in 2000, she lost a leg in an accident in 2001, but fought back and by 2002 was back at the Commonwealth Games in Manchester, competing in both able-bodied and disabled races. She became the princess of the Paralympic pool in 2004 in Athens, and then in 2008 stunned the world by becoming the first disabled athlete to qualify for the Olympics.
She will take her leave of competitive swimming at the London Paralympics and Olympics in 2012.
“London will be my last race,” said Du Toit. “The Commonwealth Games are special to me. Missing my race in Kuala Lumpur and having all the negative publicity from everyone under the sun, going to Manchester and getting all that positive energy and publicity, then doing well in Melbourne and now here.
“It’s the perfect way to say goodbye. I’m sad, but happy. Life goes on, you know. Things change.”