Olympian, Paralympian Natalie du Toit On WOWSA Live

Olympian, Paralympian Natalie du Toit On WOWSA Live

Olympian, Paralympian Natalie du Toit On WOWSA Live

Courtesy of KAATSU Global, Huntington Beach, California.

In a throwback episode (from January 2011) of Open Water Wednesday (the precursor to WOWSA Live), Olympian and Paralympian Natalie du Toit talks about her career.

The South African broke barriers like no one else before in Olympic history. On her way back from a training session on her motorbike, she was hit by a car and lost her leg in a tragic accident – that dramatically changed the trajectory of her life.

But her focus, passion and enthusiasm for sports and life remained. She spent untold hours, days, weeks, months and years – quietly and diligently regaining her world-class swimming pedigree. She did not complain. She did not point fingers. She did not give excuses. She just set about realizing her goals on a day-by-day basis.

Not even when officials at the 2008 Beijing Olympics told her that she could not use her prosthetic leg to walk from the ready room to the starting pontoon – a shocking decision that led her competitors to come to her aid, only minutes before they were to compete for Olympic medals.

One of her long-held goals was realized in Seville, Spain in 2008 where she qualified for the Olympic 10K Marathon Swim final with a ‘perfect race’ as she describes it. Walking to the warm-up area with a prosthetic leg, balancing on one leg on the starting pontoon and swimming with an imbalanced stroke, her unprecedented effort to become the first paralympic athlete to make an Olympic final brought tears to the eyes of many who witnessed her swim.

Then in Beijing, she hit the first turn buoy and lost her swim cap. Adversity seemed to be her constant fate. Despite falling behind the lead pack in the early part of the Olympic final, she swam on, figuratively, upstream. She swam past the feeding stations and ignored the pain as she picked off some of the fastest open water swimmers in the world to finish 16th in the 2008 Olympic 10K Marathon Swim. It was a disappointing swim that did not meet her more ambitious goals, but one of the most amazing comeback races and stories of all time.

She remains the humble, warm-hearted, compassionate – and fearless.

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Steven Munatones