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Global acclaim for Du Toit

Congratulations continue to pour in for South African sport’s golden girl Natalie Du Toit after she won the Laureus Disability award in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday.

SASCOC president Gideon Sam heartily congratulated the sports phenomenon on her triumph.

ÔÇ£Natalie has done us proud over the years,ÔÇØ enthused Sam. ÔÇ£All South Africans can be proud of her spirit and her never-say-die attitude.ÔÇØ

The powerful 26-year-old swimming star, who lost her leg in a scooter accident in 2001, is one of just five athletes to have competed in the Paralympics and Olympics, after swimming in both events in Beijing in 2008.

ÔÇ£She is a true inspiration to each and every athlete in this country, indeed the world, and we are are hoping that she can build on this prestigious award as we look ahead to the 2012 Olympics and Paralympics in London,ÔÇØ said the head of South Africa’s Olympic governing body.

ÔÇ£It’s people like Natalie that provide the incentive for the youngsters to aspire to greatness. She fully deserves this acknowledgement.ÔÇØ

The Springbok rugby side were nominated in the Team of the Year category but lost out to the Brawn Racing GP outfit in this category.

ÔÇ£But the mere fact that they were nominated means that the spotlight is shining bright on our sports stars,ÔÇØ said Sam.

Springbok coach Peter de Villiers, who attended the Awards ceremony with players Bakkies Botha, Jean de Villiers and BJ Botha, said Du Toit and Brawn, as well as all other winners on the night, were deserving winners of the their awards.

ÔÇ£Congratulations to Natalie, who as a disabled athlete has shown that she has the guts and determination to take on the world’s best, be they disabled or able bodied. Her attitude should be an inspiration to us all.

ÔÇ£For Brawn GP, the Team of the Year accolade is due recognition for their achievements during 2009, which saw them produce a World Champion. They were up against some very strong competition, including the Springboks, in the category but are truly deserving of the Award. All the other winners deserve congratulations for being nominated amongst the world’s best in their respective categories,ÔÇØ De Villiers said.

The South African Sports Association for the Physically Disabled (SASAPD) also sent congratulations, applauding Du Toit for “her determination, grit and humility as a true sporting superstar.

ÔÇ£Natalie is undoubtedly a wonderful inspiration to all South Africans, whether they have a disability or not,ÔÇØ┬á SASAPD chairman Koos Engelbrecht said. “Her determination to succeed has been a hallmark of her career, and this award once again underlines the high esteem she is held in World sporting circles.

ÔÇ£Natalie has been a true ambassador for South Africa abroad but has never forgotten her roots. We look forward to her celebrating this honour later this month in Port Elizabeth where she will be one of the star attractions at the Nedbank National Championships for the Physically Disabled (presented by SASAPD)ÔÇØ

Natalie made history in 2008 when she qualified to compete in both the Beijing Olympics and Paralympics, winning five gold medals in the Paralympics.

In 2009, she managed another incredible goal, winning the 10km FINA Women’s marathon in under 1hr 57mins, coincidentally, also┬á in Dubai.

She also received the Order of Ikhamanga In Gold, from President Jacob Zuma ÔÇô the highest honour any South African athlete can receive.

After receiving the award from fellow South African and Paralympic triple world record holder Oscar Pistorius and American movie star Kyle MacLachlan, Du Toit said: “It’s a great honour to be receiving this prestigious award. It is the third time that I’ve been to the Laureus Awards and the second time that I’ve been nominated. In 2010 it is our soccer World Cup, and to hold South Africa’s name high is very special for me. I know Laureus was started and founded by South Africans.

“Being a Friend & Ambassador for Laureus makes it very special for me to see what sport can do, how sports people can go into communities and really uplift them. I’ve seen those community projects, so to Laureus ‘well done’.”

Laureus World Sports Academy Member and Paralympic legend Tanni Grey-Thompson said: “I am delighted that my fellow Academy Members voted for Natalie. What she has achieved over the last decade has been amazing. Natalie is a fantastic ambassador for her sport and as one of only two people to have competed in both the Olympic and Paralympic Games, a remarkable athlete. She has shown determination and courage throughout her career and fully deserves this Award.”

Jamaican super-sprinter Usain Bolt won his second Laureus Sportsman of the Year award and American tennis player Serena Williams won the┬á women’s prize.

The Awards were announced in seven categories.

The winners:

Laureus World Sportsman of the Year: Usain Bolt
Laureus World Sportswoman of the Year: Serena Williams
Laureus World Team of the Year: Brawn GP Formula One
Laureus World Breakthrough of the Year: Jenson Button
Laureus World Comeback of the Year: Kim Clijsters
Laureus World Sportsperson of the Year with a Disability: Natalie du Toit
Laureus World Action Sportsperson of the Year: Stephanie Gilmore

There were two additional Awards:
The Laureus Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to athletics legend Nawal El Moutawakel, while American basketball star Dikembe Mutombo won the Laureus Sport for Good Award for his charitable work in the Congo.