31 August 2012
Natalie du Toit opened South Africa’s account at the London Paralympic Games when she added another gold medal to the 10 she won in Athens and Beijing.
Competing in the 50 metres butterfly in the S9 class, Du Toit was pushed all the way by Spain’s Sarai Gascon and America’s Elizabeth Stone.
At the halfway mark, Stone led, touching the wall in 32.60. Du Toit was seven-hundredths of a second behind her and Gascon a further four-hundredths off the pace.
The South African star then pulled out a narrow advantage over the second 50 metres to capture gold in 1:09.30. Gascon was second in 1:09.79, which was a European record, and third went to Stone in 1:10.10.
Afterwards, Du Toit admitted to being a little disappointed with her time. “I think I am just relieved really. I am not really happy with the time, but it’s great to have that one over,” she told a press conference.
“It’s the last time I’ll swim the 100m butterfly, so that’s the third race and three golds [won in the event in three Paralympic Games].
“Tomorrow’s the 100m backstroke, which I think is more of a challenge. I have to concentrate on that one now.”
Now 28 years of age, Du Toit has said that London will be her last Paralympics. She added she has enjoyed what the city has to offer, but with her busy programme, now that the swimming events have started, she will have little time to concentrate on anything but the action in the pool.
Apart from the 100m backstroke on Friday, she will also participate in the 100m breaststroke and will defend her titles in the 50m, 100m and 400m freestyle, as well as the 200m individual medley.
Reflecting on her decision to retire, Du Toit explained: “I decided as a little girl that 28 would be old enough and young enough to still know that I’ve achieved everything possible. But I could also go out there and study, and achieve different things.
“Six, seven, eight hours a day training, it’s impossible to study. That’s one thing on the cards, and work. And just give back in a little way as well.
“I’m going to put it all together in a package and we’ll see what happens next year.”
After setting an African record of 2:14.97 in the heats, Kevin Paul swam in the final of the 200m individual medley in the SM10 class.
He was fourth after the butterfly leg, close to two seconds behind the Brazilian Andre Brasil, who took the race out very swiftly.
The South African’s backstroke split of 37.77 was the slowest in the field, which dropped him back to seventh place at the halfway mark. Paul, however, is the Paralympic record holder in the 100m breaststroke in the SB9 class and he made a strong move on the third leg.
His breaststroke time of 36.89 was comfortably the fastest split and lifted him up to third place.
Unfortunately for the South African, he was overhauled by Australia’s Rick Pendleton over the final 50 metres and had to settle for fourth place in 2:15.26.
Canada’s Benoit Huot took gold in a world record of 2:10.01, with Brasil in second and Pendleton in third.
The South African men’s basketball team was thoroughly outplayed by defending champions Australia, going down heavily 39-93.
After a total haul of 30 medals in Beijing, 21 of which were gold, the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc) has targeted a total of 40 medals in London.
South Africa finished sixth on the medals table at the 2008 Paralympics.
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