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Du Toit in Paralympics and Olympics

Published: 4:10PM Friday June 13, 2008 Source: Reuters

Swimmer Natalie du Toit will compete in the Olympics and the Paralympics at the Beijing Games after she was named in South Africa's team.

Du Toit, who lost her left leg after a road accident in 2001, qualified for the Olympics last month when she finished fourth in the 10km race in the open water world championships in Seville. Du Toit won five golds and a silver at the 2004 Athens Paralympics.

"Natalie is setting history as the first athlete to compete in both the Paralympics and Olympics, which is a phenomenal triumph. It is a tremendous achievement by any measure," Moss Mashishi, the president of the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (SASCOC) said on Thursday.

"We are immensely proud of Natalie, even though I don't think she recognises yet what she has done in global terms. She has set our country on the map and we have absolute confidence that she will do herself and South Africa justice in both events," Mashishi said.

The South African men's and women's hockey teams were also announced as part of the second batch of Olympic competitors named by SASCO. The selection of the teams had become controversial after government's portfolio committee on sport demanded that 50 percent of both line-ups should be made up of players of colour.

Both 16-member hockey squads included only six players of colour though, with Mashishi saying SASCO favoured a more conciliatory approach.

"Because hockey qualifies for the Olympics through the continental route, they need to have a demonstrable transformation programme," Mashishi said.

"Eighteen months ago we sat down with the hockey federation and, after discussing what targets would be set for the team, an agreement was entered into between us. They have complied with that.

"We will not compromise quality for political expedience. It would be dishonest to aim for political appeasement because then the team would not reflect the level of transformation in that sport."

The rest of the swimming team was announced last month and the final team announcement, including the athletics squad, will be made on July 10.