Nathalie Dutoit: guts and glory

One can never forget the performance of Nathalie Dutoit of South Africa.

V. V. SUBRAHMANYAM

One can never forget the performance of Nathalie Dutoit of South Africa. Dutoit, who has lost a leg in a car accident, plunged into the pool and returned with a silver-medal in the 800m freestyle event. Her remarkable grit and determination won the hearts of many.

This 19-year-old South African athlete, who took to swimming at the age of six, more out of love, was the cynosure of the capacity crowd at the Swarnandhra Pradesh Sports Complex swimming pool. The crowd roared in delight when she picked two silver medals.

"Well, I didn't realise the gravity of the accident when I was admitted in the hospital. A car which suddenly zoomed on the road hit my motorbike on March 26, 2001. I was on my way back home after a training schedule," Dutoit told The Sportstar. "No doubt, it was morale-shattering when I was informed that the doctors had no alternative but to amputate the leg," she recalled. "But my parents, the coach Karoly Von Toros and the entire sporting fraternity of South Africa simply made me to look ahead and not mull over the accident," she said with a big smile. "I think the mail and the phone calls I got when I was in hospital was something unbelievable," she added. This 1999 South African champion in 400 m individual medley was out of bet within four months and was competing in a domestic event and finished fourth in the 400 m freestyle. "And the reception I got in Cape Town was something which will be in my memory for a long long time," she recalled. "The fans and the media provided the motivation I badly needed and honestly I never felt that I was handicapped," she remarked.

Nathalie is now dreaming of qualifying for the Olympics. And, the coach Karoly, who has been training Dutoit since she was just six years, is now making technical adjustments in her training. "For obvious reasons, she will be focussing on 800m and 400m events. For the shoulders should not be overloaded and these events will also have less kicking of legs the swimmer has to do. She is trying to learn to balance with the arms," he says.

"There is no point in pondering at what had happened. I took it in my stride and looked only ahead," she concluded. For her, winning is not just what matters, the spirit of participation is more important. And, what a better way to demonstrate that than by diving into the pool with a solitary leg!