Olympic swimmer carries South African flag in Paralympics, too

Updated: September 6, 2008, 2:44 PM ET
Associated Press

BEIJING -- Swimmer Natalie du Toit led the South African team into the National Stadium on Saturday, becoming the first person to carry a country's flag at the opening ceremony of both the Olympics and Paralympics.

The 24-year-old amputee lost her lower left leg in a motorcycle accident in 2001. She competed in the 10-kilometer open-water swim at the Beijing Olympics last month and finished 16th of 25 swimmers.

At the Paralympics, she is on a quest for five gold medals that would equal her haul from the 2004 Athens Paralympics.

She wanted to shoot for six golds, but an administrative error kept her from entering the 100-meter backstroke on time. She won silver in that event in Athens.

Du Toit will compete in the 50 freestyle, 100 freestyle, 200 freestyle, 100 butterfly and 200 individual medley.

Du Toit and Polish table tennis player Natalia Partyka are the only athletes in Beijing who will appear in both the Olympics and Paralympics. South African sprinter Oscar Pistorius, known as "The Blade Runner," failed in his bid to race in the Olympics but will run in the Paralympics.

"My message isn't just to disabled people," du Toit said after her Olympic event last month. "It's to everyone out there that you have to work hard. I've been through a lot of ups and downs ... but I've seen a lot of good things along the way. I was able to use the negativism in a good light and say after my accident, 'I can still do it if I work hard.' "


Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press