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Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Natalie du Toit, South African’s golden girl

An interview with Natalie du Toit by Zara Majidpour

In 1984 Natalie du Toit was born in Cape Town, South Africa.  At the age of 14 years she began competing in international swimming. In 2001 her left leg was amputated at the knee after she was hit by a car but young Natalie was back in the pool after a while.

At the age of 18 Natalie du Toit won the multi-disability 50 m and 100 m freestyle in a world record time.  She won 15 gold, 2 silver and 1 bronze medals between 2002 and 2010.

At the Beijing Olympic Games she carried her own country’s flag. She qualified for the Beijing Olympics and finished in the 16th place in women’s 10km race. She was voted 48th in the top 100 great South Africans in 2004.

She did not qualify for the London. She has one more goal to achieve and that is competing in the Paralympic Games in London.

I interview Natalie du Toit recently and had the following question:

ZM: You were in a serious car accident in 2001 with your left leg being amputated at the knee after being hit by a car. You were devastated and kept saying that 'I've lost my leg'. How did you recover from the devastation and become a stronger person?

NDT: Losing a leg or going through any dramatic change requires constant work. It is a daily struggle trying to be better and better. I had 2 legs for 17 years of my life and 10 years down the line I cannot remember how to run with my amputated leg. It is about setting goals and trying your hand at everything. If I wanted to do it when had 2 legs I wanted to do it with only 1. That does not mean that you recover from the devastation, but rather give yourself a Chance and so live your life to the fullest.

ZM: You are one of the world’s fastest distance swimmers. What is the biggest challenge you have ever faced?

NDT: No matter if one has a disability or not I believe that we all have challenges. I might not be able to keep up with the swimmers as they pick up speed, I might have trouble throughout a 10km with a sore back and sore leg but those are all challenges I had to face to be able to compete where I wanted to. There are many things that we have been through, throughout my career, but confidentiality agreements are signed, so the essential challenge is to try and make everythin  work with the small team around you, and those that believe you can.

ZM: Why did you choose to study genetics and physiology?

NDT: I did only a year of this degree and was away overseas and was not able to get the credits  for that year as I was on a swimming tour  when the exams took place as well as the re-writes. I do however have a passion for Genetics and the physiological side of life in humans. As to what I will study now I have no idea and am taking it all day b day.

ZM: You were voted 48 in the top 100 great South Africans in 2004. Some people believe that being popular comes with responsibility. What is your opinion?

NDT: I don’t believe that responsibility or being popular or being myself are different parts of my being. I am a person striving for goals, for dreams and in the interim going through many setbacks and trying to fight them, trying to learn from mistakes, trying to enjoy life and all of this cannot be done by me alone. I have a team that believes in values. These values are tough to stick to in today’s era, but we manage it. That is generally who I strive to be.

ZM: What is your message for people who have dreams, but face challenges?

NDT: I have been reading Eragon lately and some of the dragon "Saphira's' words caught my attention. Eragon is dragon rider who is expected to save all the races from a certain other dragon rider. The world’s existence rests on his shoulder.

Her words are as follows ' The world is stretched thin, Eragon. Soon it will snap and madness will burst forth. What you feel is what we dragons feel and what elves feel - the inexorable march of grim fate as the end of our age approaches. Weep for those who will die in the chaos that shall consume Alagaësia. And hope that we may win a brighter future by the strength of your sword and shield and my fangs and talons' these words sum up what I have been through and still go through on a daily basis. Take them as you all see fit!

This interview was translated into Persian (Farsi) and published in Shahrzadnew website.