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Saturday, May 3, 2008
Du Toit, who lost leg in scooter accident, will swim in Beijing Games

Reuters

SEVILLE, Spain -- South African amputee Natalie Du Toit qualified for the Beijing Olympics on Saturday after she finished fourth in the 10 kilometer ace in the Open Water World Championships.

Natalie Du Toit
Natalie Du Toit, who nearly qualified for the Sydney Games in three events at the age of 16 in 2000, will make her Olympic debut this summer in Beijing.

The 24-year-old, who lost her left leg when she was hit by a car while riding her scooter in 2001, clocked a time of 2 hours, 2 minutes 7.8 seconds, just 5.1 seconds behind winner Larisa Ilchenko of Russia.

The 10 kilometer open water race is making its debut as an Olympic event in Beijing.

Du Toit almost qualified for the Sydney Olympics in three events at the age of 16 but she suffered the accident a year later.

She became the first amputee to race in the finals of a major able-bodied swimming competition when she made the final of the 800 meter freestyle at the 2002 Commonwealth Games.

She missed out on qualification for the 2004 Athens Olympics, but did compete in the Paralympics the same year where she won five gold medals and a silver.

She also won gold when competing against able-bodied swimmers in the 1,500 meter freestyle at the All Africa Games in Algiers last year.

Du Toit has since switched to the long distance open water events, saying: "I have always had a dream to take part in an Olympic Games, and losing my leg didn't change anything."

Another South African, sprinter Oscar Pistorius who is a double amputee, is also trying to qualify for the Olympics.

Unlike Du Toit, he has been banned from competing because the carbon-fiber blades he has attached to his legs when he runs are deemed to give him an advantage. Du Toit does not use a prosthetic limb when swimming.

Pistorius has appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) about the decision.