Natalie du Toit, whose left leg was amputated below the knee in 2001, has gone on to compete against – and often beat – able-bodied swimmers at the highest level. Natalie is a Motivational, After Dinner and Women’s Day Speaker for any conference or event
At 16, she nearly qualified for the 2000 Sydney Olympics in three events.
People sensed great things were in store for the strong, determined Natalie du Toit. In 2004, Athens could become her playground. Then in 2001, those plans abruptly changed. Done with morning workout, Natalie eased her motor scooter into Monday rush-hour traffic and headed to school.
Just down the street from her pool, a careless driver exiting a parking lot ran directly into Natalie’s left leg. The scene was gruesome; the devastation was immediately obvious. “I kept saying, ‘I’ve lost my leg, I’ve lost my leg’”, she remembers. Her team mates rushed to her. Traffic snarled. The scene: total, horrible chaos. A motorcycle policeman racing to the accident crashed headfirst into a truck and had to be airlifted to a hospital.
The tragedy of life does not lie in not reaching your goals;
the tragedy of life lies in not having goals to reach for.
It is not a disgrace not to reach for the stars,
but it is a disgrace not to have stars to reach for.
‘Swim your own race!’
What Natalie du Toit has done (and is still busy doing) to overcome her adversity and the lessons she’s learned along the way, she believes holds true regardless of one’s age, sex, race, religion, nationality or financial standing. It all comes from self-belief – an exceptionally powerful tool, if we could just learn how to use it correctly every day.
Since her accident, Natalie du Toit switched to longer events – from 200m and 400m individual medley to 800m and 1 500m freestyle – to make up for her loss of speed with only one leg. But she made no adjustment to her mental outlook!!
Since then, Natalie du Toit has become one of the most successful disabled athletes of all times and an inspiration to many!
Her goal was to compete as an able-bodied swimmer at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. This goal materialized on the 20 August 2008, when she competed in the 10km ladies open water marathon, in Shunyi.
The 5 Gold Medals at the 2008 Paralympic Games made Natalie du Toit the most successful athlete in South Africa. She was further awarded the Whan Youn Dai Achievement Award. This award is presented to 2 athletes, one male and one female athlete and is given to people with disability who have achieved excellence through exceptional performances in sport and life.
Natalie due Toit believes that there are children and adults who are in great need of help. Every year she swims the Vista Nova, the annual Cold Water Big Swim from Robben Island to Bloubergstrand. The swim is planned to take place on Friday 27th of April 2009. All funds raised from this event are used to assist children of the Vista Nova School, via the purchase of necessary specialised equipment.
Natalie also assists the Cancer Association in Cape Town.
Natalie du Toit is one of the most booked Motivational, After Dinner and women’s Day Speakers in Africa.
Natalie’s story has become an inspiration for many people in South Africa and all over the world. She shares her life’s journey with audiences in a candid, informal way that is both riveting and motivational. Finding time in her busy training schedule is not easy, but she is available to schools, companies and other groups who may benefit from her talks.
SUMMARY OF NATALIE’S SPEECH
Everyone goes through good and bad times in life. However, we always tend to focus on the good things and celebrate them; we ignore the bad things, which unfortunately often end up hindering us. My story is a personal journey of how I have learnt to face my good and bad situations and deal with it in a manner that I understand would be the best. What I have done (and are still busy doing) to overcome my adversity and the lessons I’ve learned along the way, I believe holds true regardless of your age, sex, race, religion, nationality or financial standing. It all comes from self-belief – an exceptionally powerful tool, if we could just learn how to use it correctly every day.