Olympian Du Toit wins gold in Paralympics 100m fly

Updated: March 25, 2009, 12:16 PM ET
Associated Press

BEIJING -- Natalie Du Toit won the 100-meter butterfly gold medal at the Beijing Paralympics on Sunday, less than three weeks after her open-water Olympic swim in which she finished 16th in a race beset by problems.

The South African, who won five golds and a silver in the Athens Paralympics, finished in 1 minute, 6.74 seconds -- a world record for her disability class.

A swimmer with Olympic promise, Du Toit lost her left leg above the knee in a 2001 motorcycle crash. She qualified for the Beijing Olympics in the 10-kilometer swim, a race in which her cap came off as she brushed the buoy on the first turn. Du Toit struggled the rest of the way with hair in her eyes, stopping at times to fix the cap.

"It's been a bit of a rough ride from before the Olympics until now," Du Toit said. "It's awesome. Finally I'm swimming a bit faster, which is great."

Du Toit will try for five golds in Beijing.

"Hopefully I'll come back with five," she said. "But there are going to be one or two races that are tight."

Du Toit said her Olympic training was less than ideal, and the 10K race was about as bad as it could have been.

"I panicked," she said. "I should have stopped and put the cap on properly. For 10 kilometers I stopped three times every lap trying to put my cap on. It wasn't the best race and from lap one. I was swearing at myself."

Sixteen gold medals in swimming were up for grabs Sunday in the Paralympics, with 11 others awarded in shooting, judo and cycling.

The United States won four gold medals in swimming on the opening day, the most of any country. The winners were: Erin Popovich, Rudy Garcia-Tolson, Miranda Uhl and Jessica Long.

Veronika Vadovicova of Slovakia won the first gold medal of the Paralympics, taking the women's 10-meter air rifle (standing position) early in the day. Manuela Schmermund of Germany won the silver and Nilda Gomez Lopez of Puerto Rico the bronze.

Britain won the first medal in cycling with gold for Simon Richardson in the 1-kilometer time trial. Masaki Fujita of Japan was second and defending Paralympic champion Greg Ball of Australia was third.

China won two of the four gold medals in judo with victories by Guo Huaping (women's 48 kilograms) and Cui Na (women's 52 kilos).


Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press

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