One of the biggest conundrums for any sportsperson is knowing when to say, “It’s time”. Many stay on too long, wanting to keep Father Time at arm’s length once he’s touched them on the shoulder. Many spoil their legacy by not quitting at the right time. By GARY LEMKE in Birmingham.
Charl du Toit has timed his retirement to perfection.
One of para athletics’ bright lights, the 100m and 400m gold medallist at the 2016 Rio Olympics and gold medallist in the 200m and 400m at the 2017 Para World Championships, woke up today a retired athlete.
He put the final stop to a glittering career with a silver medal in the T37/T38 100 metres at the Birmingham Commonwealth Games, stopping the clock in 11.54sec. At the Tokyo Paralympics last year, he had clocked 11.63 in the event and in winning gold in Rio six years ago it was 11.45. No one can dare suggest he left it too late.
At the age of 29, and picking up silver in a race where a higher classification (T38) athlete in Australia’s Evan O’Hanlon won gold, Du Toit has picked the perfect moment to retire.
“This was definitely my last race. I have tears of joy, tears of excitement. This was a special race, and having my coach, my fiancee and my brother and his wife here was special. I’m not finished with athletics itself, it’s in my blood and I will still be involved somewhere. But for the racing side of it I am so privileged.”
He goes out on his shield on a high, and in front of a crowd – which wasn’t the case at a Covid-19-restricted Tokyo – and most importantly, in front of his family and fiancee, who had travelled overseas for the first time. And, importantly for Du Toit, the 29-year-old did so under the gaze of God.
Du Toit was born with cerebral palsy and had been interested in sports since an early age. He has earned a reputation as one of the nicest individuals and has competed at the top level of his sport for nearly a decade. He always has a word and a smile for everyone, although freely admits that he couldn’t have come this far in his career had it not been for the guidance of renowned coach Suzanne Ferreira.
“I still had to learn about myself, about life after Tokyo and Suzanne has helped me so much along life’s journey. This is a fairy book ending, I couldn’t have written it better. I couldn’t have stopped after Tokyo, I needed this. And I’m privileged to have had it end like this.”
Although, not as privileged as those who have watched him perform miracles and give so much joy to a nation during his track career.
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