17 March 2006
South Africa’s Natalie du Toit, who won the first David Dixon Award for the Outstanding Athlete of the 2002 Commonwealth Games, has broken the world record in the 50 metres freestyle for elite athletes with a disability (EAD) at the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne.
South Africa’s opening ceremony flag bearer lowered her own world mark of 29.35, which she set at Manchester in 2002, to 29.32 in the heats for the event.
Du Toit previously competed at the Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur in 1998 as an able-bodied athlete. In 2001, her left leg was amputated below the knee after she was involved in an accident on her scooter.
A year later, at the 2002 Games in Manchester, she won both the 50 and 100 metres freestyle events and made the final of the 800 metres freestyle for able-bodied athletes. It was the first time in history that an athlete with a disability had qualified for the final of an able-bodied event at a major championship.
In Manchester, she broke four world records in a single day, competing in the heats and finals.
In 2003, at the All-Africa Games, competing against able-bodied swimmers, Du Toit won gold in the 800 metres freestyle. She also claimed silver in the 800 metres freestyle and bronze in the 400 metres freestyle at the 2003 Afro-Asian Games.
At the Paralympics in Athens in 2004, Du Toit excelled, winning five gold medals and one silver medal. In the same year, she was nominated for the 2004 Laureus World Sportsperson of the Year with Disability Award.
A year later, at the 2005 Paralympic World Cup, she won three gold medals. She was also named SA Sportswoman of the Year.