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.

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).

Du Toit said afterwards, “I’m more relieved than anything else! 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 – I did my best.”

At the Athens (2004) and Beijing (2008) Paralympics Du Toit took five gold medals.

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.”

Du Toit, who alongside Oscar Pistorius is South Africa’s most recognisable Paralympian, is bowing out after a fabulous career. Speaking to Road to London on Sunday Du Toit stated, ”This is it, this is not only my last Paralympics but my last competition. I’ve achieved everything I wanted and the last few years have just been an incredible strain on me psychologically. I’m not at liberty to go into the details right now but it hasn’t been at all easy.”

In 2008 Du Toit was both an Olympian and a Paralympian but on this occasion she only managed to qualify for the Paralympics, being pipped to the Olympic open water spot by Jessica Roux in Portugal earlier this year.

Du Toit will be competing in seven events in the Aquatics Centre in Stratford and will be swimming for seven out of 10 days. Her seven events are the 50 freestyle, 100m butterfly, free, backstroke and breaststroke, the 200m Individual Medley and 400m freestyle.

After winning five golds in both Athens and Beijing she has inadvertently set herself a very high benchmark.

Regarding what she will do after she finishes her final race Du Toit said, “I honestly have no idea what I’m going to do yet. I’d like to go back and study. I did a year at UCT (Sports Science) but marathon training was taking six to eight hours out of my day at that stage, so that didn’t work out too well.”

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