In 2010, Natalie du Toit was awarded the Laureus World Sportsperson of the Year with a Disability accolade for breaking down the barriers between disabled and able-bodied sport.
Natalie du Toit is a name synonymous with courage, determination and overcoming adversity.
A South African swimmer, Du Toit stole South Africans’ hearts when, at just 17 years old and on the cusp of a promising professional swimming career, she was involved in a scooter accident. Her left leg was amputated at the knee in a move that would derail most athletes’ hopes of a successful career. But not Du Toit. Just three months later – before she could even walk again – she was back in the pool swimming.
With a fighting spirit and never-say-die attitude, Du Toit went on to qualify for the finals of the 800m freestyle event at the 2002 Commonwealth Games. This marked the first time in recent history that an amputee raced in the finals of an international able-bodied swimming competition. At the end of the Games, Natalie was presented with the first David Dixon Award for Outstanding Athlete of the Games.
Now a renowned Paralympic athlete, she went on to compete and win gold in the 2004, 2008 and 2012 Paralympic Games, and the 2006 and 2010 Commonwealth Games. In addition, Natalie was one of only two Paralympians who competed in the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. She qualified for the Games after finishing fourth in the 10km open-water race at the Open Water World Championships in Spain.
In 2009, she received South Africa’s Order of Ikhamanga in Gold, honouring her exceptional achievements in swimming.
Natalie competed in the 2012 London Paralympic Games, earning herself three gold medals and a silver, which took her tally to 13 gold medals across three Paralympic Games. These would be the last Olympic medals of her career, as she officially retired from professional swimming after her final race in those Games.
These days she is much in demand as a motivational public speaker, inspiring the youth to reach for their dreams.