Fifth gold for Natalie

2004-09-26 22:17
Athens - Natalie du Toit was heralded among the greats of Paralympic history when she won her fifth gold medal, the 50m freestyle, in a world record 29.52sec, in Athens on Sunday night.

Du Toit set a Paralympic record 29.54sec in her morning heat, then surged ahead of Russia's Irina Grazhdanova (30.63sec), to cut one second off her world record that she set in Manchester in 2002.

Du Toit also won gold in the 100 butterfly (1:07.69 world record), 100 freestyle (1:02.83 Paralympic record), 200 IM (2:29.98 world record) and the 400m freestyle (4:28.09 world record).

She also won silver in the 100m backstroke and claimed fourth in the 100 breaststroke - her weakest stroke.

"This has been an awesome experience, a great learning experience," said Du Toit after she received a standing ovation from the crowd at the Aquatic Centre.

The unassuming swimmer has also been a revelation in the manner in which she has handled the international media, showign a maturity beyond her 20 years.

Du Toit, who lost her lower left leg in a scooter accident shortly after narrowly missing out on selection to the 2000 Sydney Olympics, has left a golden trail in the pool that has made her the main feature of swimming at these Games.

Du Toit said she still had dreams of qualifying in the 800m for the Beijing Olympics in 2008.

"My times are improving steadily. In the beginning it was like being a 12-year-old in the pool, but now I'm reaching the top in the Paralympics.

"My strokes are getting better all the time. There's a lot of hard work ahead because the Olympic qualifying time is 8:38 for the 800 - I've got 23 seconds to catch up in the next three and half years."

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