Cape Town - In a year of such inspiring, resurgent all-round success for South African sport, whoever won our inaugural Star of the Year was going to have to be a really special individual.
And she is .... Natalie du Toit!
The gutsy, fiercely determined swimming star has won our 2008 trophy by a comfortable margin, beating off particularly noble challenges from the likes of runner-up JP Duminy and third-placed Trevor Immelman.
Du Toit earned 31.46 percent of our readers’ votes for the annual poll of Sport24’s month-by-month award, given for very specific achievements rather than, for instance, cumulative success by any individual sportsperson over a period of a few months.
Cricket sensation Duminy picked up 14.88 percent of votes for his dedicated December feats, which included a vital unbeaten 50 on debut in the first Test against Australia at the WACA, and then that sublime 166 in the Melbourne follow-up encounter which also secured the series.
Golfer Immelman got 12.92 percent of your approval for his glowing April achievement in winning the US Masters against expectation at prestigious Augusta.
Natalie had the benefit of being the sole nominee in 2008 to win two of the monthly laurels, for May and September, which obviously gave her the inside line for our annual award – but why shouldn’t it have?
Her May success involved qualification, despite her obvious physical drawback, for the full Olympics in Beijing in the 10km Open Water Swim, where she went on to perform creditably.
But then the established Paralympics star “cleaned up” in that international jamboree shortly afterwards too, earning five gold medals to global acclaim and admiration, and was thus a popular winner of our September award.
So Natalie du Toit romps to our 2008 main prize, and deserves a popular chorus of “go, you good thing!”
But what did Natalie have to say?
Sport24 Editor, Andrew “Tank” Lanning met with Natalie in Johannesburg yesterday to present her with the award, and she really was gracious and humble in her acceptance. Natalie was also more than happy to give up some of her day to speak to Sport24. We will publish the full Q&A tomorrow as a Friday coffee break read, but below a snippet from the full article:
How do you feel about pipping the likes of JP Duminy, Trevor Immelman, Graeme Smith, Shaun Pollock and John Smit to the award?
Truly honoured, and I love the fact that it was decided by the Sport24 readers. That means a lot to me. In fact, the support I get all round the world is really motivational to me, so the fact that it was decided by online vote is really cool .
Ever wish you participated in a more mainstream sport?
There are a few things that irritate me about participating in a sport that is not flush with cash, but like losing my leg, I would not change it for the world. Things do not come easy in life and this is just another further proof of that. It keeps me humble and working hard.
Favourite tune on your Ipod?
“I wish I was a Punk Rocker” is my favourite at the moment, but I love most music. Especially the old stuff, actually. I have all the different ipods and a cool set of speakers that I can take around with me. Music plays a big part in my life as it can swing my mood, but I do not have a specific song that I listen to when preparing for a race. I am hoping to try one of those under water music players that Speedo make some day, though!
Most irritating thing about losing your leg?
Being a slow walker, and not being able to run when I want to. But I have come to terms with losing my leg and that now forms part of who I am …
Sport24 Photo of the Year
Sport24 Plonker of the Year
Gallery: Natalie du Toit receives her award