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Natalie celebrates gold
- Updated: October 5, 2010
New Delhi: Natalie du Toit had to pull out all the stops and throw a Commonwealth Games record into the equation to win South Africa’s second gold of these championships on Tuesday.
Du Toit, in winning the women’s S9 50m freestyle final, had to dig deep to overhaul the stubborn Australian Annabelle Williams, with a strong final 20m allowing her to catch her rival close to the wall before touching in 29.17sec. The time was some 0.13sec off the world record that Du Toit herself holds, but that will be of no concern to her. The Paralympic legend came here to win, and win she did in her last race as a S9 freestyler.
The gold adds to those from Manchester 2002 and Melbourne 2006 and is testimony to her longevity and class.
It was an emotional occasion for the South African. ÔÇ£I knew it was my last race as a 50m freestyle (S9) swimmer and what a way to finish with a gold. Being here I realise what a long way I’ve come. I attended my first Commonwealth Games in 1998 but was DQ’d (as a 14-year-old) after I didn’t make my starting time.ÔÇØ
While Du Toit claimed the country’s second gold after Chad le Clos’ heroics in the 200m butterfly on Monday, wrestling’s Richard Addinall and Hughes Bella-Lufi enjoyed their finest moments on the mat. Addinall won silver in the men’s 74kg greco-roman, as did Bella-Lufa Hughes in the 96kg greco-roman to take the country’s overall tally to five medals.
However, all eyes on Tuesday were in the water. Jean Basson had qualified fastest for the blue riband men’s 200m freestyle final but the race was always going to be a lottery with one of the most competitive and closely-matched fields imaginable.
Ultimately, Basson was edged out of the medals, finishing fourth in 1min 48.47sec, only 0.59sec behind Scotland’s Robbie Renwick, and 0.25sec off bronze. The USA-based South African had produced a 1:48.21 in the morning, so not to go quicker in the evening will led to much retrospection. For, had Basson even matched that time, he would have at least won bronze.
After a good start, Basson went went through the first 50m in fourth (25.57) and that’s where he stayed throughout, 53.02 at halfway and 1:20.98 at the 150m mark.
Cameron van der Burgh, the 50m Commonwealth champion and bronze medallist in the 100m breaststroke at the last world championships, has made no bones about the fact he has put the longer race at the top of his list of priorities this week.
In both the heats and semis on Tuesday the 22-year-old was touched off into second spot, on a day when the Commonwealth Games record was broken three times. The South African improved his morning performance of 1:02.13 with a 1:00.52 swim in the evening, second fastest overall.
Van der Burgh certainly looks the part here, and while the Australian David Sprenger is going to be tough to beat, it is do-able given Van der Burgh’s condition and form. However, this is another event, like the men’s 200m freestyle was, where any of the first four qualifiers can pull out a gold-medal display on Wednesday night.
Roland Schoeman, the Commonwealth 50m butterfly champion from 2006, has put himself in contention to add another medal to his glittering CV when he posted the third fastest time in the semi-finals in reaching the final.
Following his 23.76 from the morning’s heats, Schoeman produced a 23.75 and was touched off again by the highly capable Kenyan Jason Dunford (23.45) in the semi-final. Australia’s comeback kid Geoff Huegill’s 23.62 in the first semi split the pair.