Laureus, an international foundation that promotes sports for social welfare, has named South African swimmer Natalie Du Toit as its 2010 World Sportsperson of the Year with a Disability. Du Toit, the first limb amputee ever to qualify for the Olympics and one of only two people to compete in both the Olympics and Paralympics, is a distance swimmer who finished 16th in the able-bodied 10km open-water swim at Beijing and won five gold medals in Paralympic events less than a month later.
The award was presented to Du Toit in Abu Dhabi, the United Arab Emirates capitol city, on March 10. She was chosen for the honor by the Laureus World Sports Academy, which Laureus calls “the ultimate sports jury, made up of 46 of the greatest sportsmen and sportswomen of all time.” The ceremony was staged at the Emirates Palace and was attended by global figures from the world of sport and entertainment. The members of the Laureus World Sports Academy who were present included Marcus Allen, Boris Becker, Nadia Comaneci, Tony Hawk, and Edwin Moses. Double Oscar-winning Hollywood star Kevin Spacey hosted the ceremony, which was attended by stars including Gwyneth Paltrow, Hugh Grant, and Clive Owen.
Throughout 2009, Du Toit earned a variety of medals and honors, including winning the 10km FINA women’s swim in just under 1:57 in Dubai and being presented with the Order of Ikhamanga In Gold by South African President Jacob Zuma, the highest honor a South African athlete can receive.