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Saturday, May 10, 2008
Du Toit follows up Olympic qualifying with 100m title at World Cup

Associated Press

MANCHESTER, England -- Natalie du Toit won the 100-meter freestyle at the Paralympic World Cup on Saturday -- one week after she qualified for the Olympics in the open-water event.

The South African touched in 1 minute, 1.32 seconds at the same Manchester pool where she competed at the 2002 Commonwealth Games. She lost her lower left leg in a motorcycle accident in 2001.

That didn't extinguish her Olympic dreams and last Saturday she qualified for Beijing with a fourth-place finish in the 10-kilometer race at the world open-water championships in Seville, Spain.

"I didn't expect to go that fast going from 10 kilometers to 100 meters so I was pretty happy," du Toit said.

Annabelle Williams of Australia took an early lead before du Toit recovered after the halfway turn and powered to victory.

"Obviously I went out a bit slow and came back very nicely," she said. "I've got to work on my start and my reaction time will get better."

Du Toit was competing in a sprint race for the first time in a specially adapted version of Speedo's LZR Racer. The swimsuit based on NASA technology is revolutionizing the sport and rewriting the record books.

"My suit is a bit big and I didn't expect all the drag," the 24-year-old du Toit said. "It doesn't fit me exactly, there are a lot of creases and there's a lot to fix on it. Hopefully we can do it before Beijing, but I'm not sure because the costume is so scarce."

Before her accident in February 2001, du Toit finished eighth in the 800 at the 1999 Pan Pacific Championships in Sydney, Australia. She also competed at the 1998 Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, at age 14.