du toit to make history

South African swimmer Natalie du Toit will make history when she leads the South African Paralympic team as the official flag bearer at the opening ceremony of the Beijing Paralympics on September 6.

South African swimmer Natalie du Toit will make history when she leads the South African Paralympic team as the official flag bearer at the opening ceremony of the Beijing Paralympics on September 6.

Du Toit will become the first person in South African history to be the flag bearer at both an Olympic Games and Paralympic Games.

Du Toit remains one of the most inspirational members of the South African Paralympic team, and therefore was nominated by the team to be the flag bearer again.

The swimmer also made history when she qualified for the 10km open water swim in the able-bodied Olympics in Beijing, where she finished 16th.

Du Toit just missed out on qualifying for the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games at the age of 16. But in 2001 her life changed forever when she lost her left leg in an accident with another car while travelling on her scooter in Cape Town.

Less than two years after her accident she qualified for the 800m freestyle final at the 2002 Commonwealth Games, marking the first time an amputee had raced in the finals of an able-bodied swimming competition.

In Beijing, Du Toit will be competing in the 50m freestyle, 100m butterfly, 100m freestyle, 200m individual medley and 400m freestyle events.

Meanwhile, as Beijing gears up to host the Paralympics, the government has been rolling out its formidable propaganda machine to praise efforts to better the lot of China's estimated 83 million disabled.

But while there is a recognition in some quarters that there have been some dramatic improvements, stigma and poor facilities remain pressing problems in the world's most populous country. - Reuters

X