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Du Toit, Gomez win Whang Youn Dai Achievement Awards
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16:42, September 16, 2008

South African amputee swimmer Natalie du Toit and Panaman visually-impaired runner Said Gomez will be presented the Whang Youn Dai Achievement Awards at Wednesday's closing ceremony of the Beijing Paralympics, the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) said on Tuesday.

Du Toit and Gomez won the awards because they "have exemplified the spirit of the Paralympians", the IPC said in a statement. They will be each given a medal made out of 75 grams pure gold.

Gold medalist Natalie Du Toit (C) of South Africa, silver medalist Irina Grazhdanova (L) of Russia and bronze medalist Louise Watkin of Great Britain pose for group photos during the awarding ceremony of women's 50m freestyle S9 of Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games at the National Aquatics Center in Beijing, Sept. 14, 2008. (Xinhua Photo)

The first female amputee to compete in an able-bodied Olympics, du Toit finished 16th among 25 competitors in the 10-kilometer open-water swim last month at the Beijing Games. The 24-year-old South African, who lost her lower left leg in a motorcycle accident in 2001, won five gold medals at the Beijing Paralympics to equal her haul from Athens four years ago.

Du Toit often holds charitable events raising funds for a South African school for children with cerebral palsy and learning disabilities called Vista Nova school.

Gomez, 42, is a five-time Paralympian. He lost his sight at a young age and went through his father's discouragement and punishment to take part in his first Paralympics in 1992 where he won a gold and silver medals. The Panaman NPC was established in 2006 and prior to that, Gomez attended the Paralympics at his own expense.

Since 1982, Gomez, who makes his living by farming, has been coaching children able bodied and with disabilities just for love of sports.

For the first time in his six Paralympics, Gomeze returned home without a medal from Beijing as he failed to progress through the first round in both his events - the 1,500m and 5,000m.

Athletes from 24 countries and regions had been nominated by the IPC executive committee, Chefs de Mission and the press, and six athletes made the shortlist, three each in the male and female categories, said the IPC.

Joining Gomez in the men's pool were Supachai Koysub of Thailand and Ron Williams of the United States. Along with du Toit, Natalia Partyka of Poland and Cheri Blauwet of the United States rounded the women's field.

The Whang Youn Dai Achievement Award is named after South Korean Whang Youn Dai, who was stricken with polio at the age of three. She contributed her life for the development of Paralympic sport around the world.

At the 1988 Paralympic Summer Games in Seoul, the IPC recognized her life-long contribution to the Paralympic Movement and thus established the award. Since then, this award was presented at every Paralympic Games to one male and one female athletes.


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2 Great Britain 41 27 28 96
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5 Australia 20 26 25 71
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