Good start for Natalie

2008-09-07 14:41

Beijing - Britain took an early lead in the Paralympics medal table on Sunday as Olympian Natalie du Toit starred and Chinese officials played down an embarrassing security breach at the glittering opening ceremony.

South Africa's Du Toit, who finished 16th in the Olympics women's 10 kilometres swim, shaved almost half-a-second off her previous mark in the 100m butterfly heats on the first day of competition.

"I'm really happy for a morning swim. I don't think I had the best stroke but I warmed up very early this morning and then swam an hour after I was supposed to. Hopefully I will be ready for the final tonight," she said.

'Fast pool'

"This is a very fast pool. I don't often sprint but it feels very good."

Du Toit, who timed 1min 7.08sec, just missed out on qualifying for the 2000 Sydney Olympics at the age of 16 but in 2001 she lost her left leg in a road accident in Cape Town.

In the Athens Paralympics she won five golds and a silver.

Organisers meanwhile said a woman who burst into the opening ceremony and tried to remove her clothes was mentally ill.

Press photos and TV pictures showed staff grappling with the woman, clad only in blue jeans and a bra, as she lay on the floor of the "Bird's Nest" National Stadium during Saturday's extravaganza.

The intrusion, as 4 000 athletes were entering the stadium, was one of the worst security breaches seen during the Olympics or Paralympics.

"She tried to enter the field and remove her shirt. She was stopped by our staff," said Zhu Jing, a press officer with the Beijing organising committee.

The woman was from the southern Chinese province of Guangdong, said Zhu, denying that the incident was a political protest.

"It was confirmed later by authorities that she was mentally ill," Zhu said, adding that she did not know the woman's name or age.

Breaking records

Elsewhere Britain picked up where they left off in the Olympic cycling, grabbing three track golds to head the medals table ahead of Australia.

Darren Kenny knocked almost six seconds off his own world record in the qualifying round of the men's individual pursuit before going on to take gold.

The athletics programme starts on Monday, with much attention focused on South Africa's double amputee track sensation Oscar Pistorius - dubbed "Blade Runner" due to the carbon fibre blades with which he has won a host of titles.

Pistorius has set his sights on a clean sweep in the sprints and is also eyeing the 400m world record.

More than 4 000 competitors from nearly 150 countries and regions are battling for 472 gold medals in 20 sports at the eye-catching venues used for last month's Olympics such as the "Bird's Nest" and the Water Cube.

Host China, which topped the medals table at the 2004 Athens Paralympics with 63 golds ahead of Britain and Canada, is widely expected to dominate again - and even more comprehensively than at last month's Olympics.

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