By Mark Etheridge
Day one of competition under the belt and one medal has landed safely in Team South Africa’s coffers here at the 2012 Paralympic Games on Thursday.
Second at the turn, Paralympic legend Natalie du Toit swam her way to gold in the 100m-metre butterfly (S9 class), winning in a time of 1min 09.30sec from Spain’s Sarai Gascon (1:09.79)
Said Du Toit afterwards: “I’m more relieved than anything else!┬á Nice to have it over and done with… my last 100m butterfly.
“That was the easier one though, tomorrow’s 100m backstroke is going to be more of a challenge.”
Du Toit, 28, has made it clear that this is both her last Paralympics and last competition ever and has entered seven events, her busiest Paralympics ever.
Asked about her slow start, she had a quick explanation: “The arm amputees have now got new starting blocks so they start much quicker. Us leg amputees have always been the slowest starters. I come back at the end.
“I was actually a bit disappointed in my time but that’s my race ÔÇô I did my best.”
At the Athens (2004) and Beijing (2008) Paralympics Du Toit took five gold medals. In Beijing she helped South Africa to a total of 30 medals, 21 of them gold.
Also in action in the pool on Thursday evening was Kevin Paul in the 200m Individual Medley (SM10). He swam a personal best time of 2:14.97 in the morning heats (an African record) but was unable to improve on that, going 2:15.26 in the final.
“This was never going to be a priority event for me because my main aim is to defend my 100m breaststroke title from Beijing. I never thought I’d get anyway near a medal, until that time this morning and then there was just a glimmer of hope.
“But ultimately coming fourth is a bit like kissing your sister,” he grinned.
“I’ve definitely improved in this event because in Bejing I was nowhere close to a medal, so this shows I’m on track. But also, my event is only in nine days so there’s no ways you can really stay on a peak for nine days.”