BEIJING - Amputee Natalie du Toit might not have won a medal in the 10km open water marathon swim yesterday but she drew a strong media contingent from across the world at the Sy Rowing-Canoeing Park yesterday.
Journalists swamped her like bees drawn to honey shortly after she had put on her prosthetic leg after competing against able-bodied athletes.
Du Toit came 16th in a time of 2hrs:49min:9sec, finishing ahead of nine swimmers. She was 1:22,2 behind champion Larisa Ilchenko of Russia who registered 1:59:27,7.
Anne-Keri Payne of Britain claimed silver in 1:59:29,2 and fellow Brit Cassandra Patten took bronze in 1:59:31.
The media-friendly Du Toit faced the media with glee and answered all the questions well at a specially arranged press conference.
Du Toit, whose left leg was amputated below the knee after a motorbike accident in 2001, was also hailed by her competitors for her heroism.
The champion praised her for not letting her disability hold her back.
"She was right in there battling with everyone else in a race that is often called wrestling in the water for its rough tactics," Ilchenko said.
"She's amazing," added Patten. "I find it hard [swimming] and I'm a completely able-bodied person."
"I feel great to have finally competed in the Olympic Games and I'm now looking forward to the 2012 London Games," said a calm Du Toit, who was fifth after the first lap of the race before falling off the pace.
"I'm not too happy with the position I got because I was aiming for a top five finish. I had a problem with my cap that kept falling. This made it difficult for me to swim because my hair kept on falling on my face. But this is not an excuse.
"I'm going sight-seeing from here and to eat some junk food. I will be back at training for the Paralympics."