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Friday, January 8, 2010

"Do not panic"

As the days go by, I see more people giving up on their dreams just because they met an obstacle, I see more people saying “this is impossible” just because they are scared to do it and think others can’t either. Well today I will tell you the story of Natalie Du Toit, hope after you read it there will be more people that will stick with their dreams, and never listen to somebody saying “this is impossible.”

Natalie was born in Cape Town, South Africa and has been competing internationally in swimming since the age of 14.Du Toit lost her leg when she was hit by a car while riding her motor scooter in 2001. She recalls being in excruciating pain after the accident and not being able to feel her left leg, but she doesn't remember going to the hospital. Doctors put du Toit in a hyperbaric chamber in the hopes that her muscles would regenerate, but when that was unsuccessful they told her they would have to amputate the leg. Du Toit then remembers waking up and asking her mother when the operation would be, but her mother told her it had already happened.

Back in the pool after six months, du Toit never considered giving up the sport. A year later, having learnt to compensate for her lost limb with a greater use of her left arm, she stole the show at the Commonwealth Games in Manchester. She won the 50m and 100m freestyle races for disabled swimmers and qualifying for the final of the 800m freestyle on the main programme. At the closing ceremony she received the David Dixon Award as the outstanding athlete of the Games, ahead of Ian "Thorpedo" Thorpe with his six swimming golds.She first tried open water swimming at a race in Egypt in 2002 but, despite winning the 5k, called it a negative experience. At the time, du Toit was training mainly for sprints in the pool and was totally unprepared for such long distances. But the 10k was added to the Olympic program in 2005, and du Toit eventually realized that could provide her another opportunity to make the Olympics. She only really began to focus on open water in 2007, but having been a distance swimmer for several years, took to the sport quickly.
Du Toit followed her older brother, Andre, into swimming as a child, and she never played any other sports. She narrowly missed qualifying for the South African team in Sydney, which was before her accident, in the 200m butterfly, 200m IM and 400m IM. She was closest in the 200m IM, where she said she missed the qualifying standard by about one second. Only 16 at the time, du Toit was considered a serious contender for 2004 and 2008.
Du Toit qualified for Beijing by finishing fourth in the 10k at the 2008 Open Water Worlds, where the top 10 finishers automatically earned Olympic berths. "That was a big surprise," she said of the finish. "I didn't expect to finish fourth. I didn't think I'd be top 10 at all." At the time, du Toit had competed in three open water races internationally to prepare for Worlds. But she had been putting in more training than ever and said she was prepared for the race both physically and mentally. And, three-quarters through the race, du Toit noticed she was in the top 4 or 5. "I was still feeling good, so it was just my mentality to keep up there and keep going and sprint," she said. "It's just a lot of training that went into it, and I was mentally prepared to go out there and really want something."
Of everything du Toit has learned when it comes to open water swimming, she highlights one point as the most important: "You musn't panic," she said. "You're going to get hit and you're going to get dunked, but don't panic." And in the 10k, which is a two-hour race, there are plenty of chances to panic. But now du Toit is prepared for those instances. "It comes with practice," she said.
She also made sporting history by qualifying for the 800 m able-bodied freestyle final - the first time that an athlete with a disability had qualified for the final of an able-bodied event.
In 2003, competing against able-bodied swimmers, Du Toit won gold in the 800 metres freestyle at the All-Africa Games as well as silver in the 800 metres freestyle and bronze in the 400 metres freestyle at the Afro-Asian Games.

In conclusion if you are wondering what Natalie thinks about everything that she went through… here is the answer-'I don't think of myself as being disabled, or able-bodied. I just want to be myself and go for my own dreams and goals'
So next time you meet un obstacle remember that the bend in the road is not the end of the road unless you refuse to take the turn.

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