Destined for greatness
Simone du Toit prepares to compete in 2012 London Olympics
Published: Wednesday, April 14, 2010
Updated: Tuesday, November 20, 2012 16:11
It is difficult not to hear about her in the world of track and field. In her homeland of South Africa, her current home in Dallas, or in other far-off parts of the world, her name is likely to jump out from papers and the Web.
While at school, she usually headlines articles of SMU's track and field team. Her name is Simone du Toit, sophomore shot put and discus throw specialist for the Mustangs.
Du Toit does not have the mindset of a typical college student—not many students plan on competing in the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.
She says her sport has always come naturally to her. She was 11-years-old when her teacher recommended she try the shot put. She found it came easily to her.
"It was all about stereotyping," du Toit said. She insists she had the look of a thrower, and that is how it all started.
When she was 12 years old, du Toit made the national team in Sydney for the Pacific School Games. With her dad as her coach, she competed a year up in a category against the 13-year-olds—and won.
That was when du Toit realized she might have something special. She found a real coach, and in 2005 she became the World Youth Shot Put Champion.
She went on to win the South African Championships for eight straight years in the shot. Each year she beat her own distance. To this day, she remains the South African recorder-holder in the shot.
Not surprisingly, SMU head coach Dave Wollman heard about du Toit and decided he wanted her on his track and field team. After exchanging e-mails back and forth, he flew down to Johannesburg for the weekend with the goal of acquiring the standout for his team.
Du Toit could have gone to school anywhere. Offers poured in from schools around the world, but she dreamed of competing at the Beijing 2008 Summer Olympics. So she remained in South Africa for two years and studied education, while preparing herself for the games.
Four months prior to Beijing, the unthinkable happened. Du Toit went through an Olympic hopeful's nightmare. While in Ethiopia for the African Cup, she got food poisoning.
"They thought it was a tropical virus. It lasted a week and I was in ICU," she recalls.
She could not eat. For 18 days, she consumed only liquids, and her stomach burned from the medications. It was only three weeks before the Olympics that she started eating and getting back to her workout routine, but the illness proved to be too much. She was out of shape, and could not perform at her peak.
Du Toit said she was mad at everyone, including herself. She had sacrificed everything to go to Beijing. It had been her dream since she was 11-years-old. Just like that, it was gone.
Then fate stepped in. After the nightmare of missing the games, du Toit wondered what she wanted to do with her life. It had been two years since she had spoken with Wollman, but one night she had a dream that she had e-mailed him expressing interest in coming to compete for him.
She woke up from the dream and headed to the computer to actually send him that e-mail. But there was already a message from Wollman in her inbox, again expressing interest in her becoming a Mustang.
And that's all it took. In a matter of weeks, she called the American Embassy, got a VISA and took the SAT. A stranger to the campus, du Toit arrived at SMU in time for the Fall 2008 semester.
"I didn't even blink about it. I had déjà vu even though I had never been to the SMU track before," she said.
Crediting Wollman for keeping her calm and assuring her everything would be OK, she soon fell in love with everything about Dallas.
Set to graduate in May 2011, du Toit is fighting to attend a fourth year at SMU. The NCAA claims she participated competitively during her year of university in South Africa. Du Toit claims that because she was preparing for Beijing during that first year it should not be counted as one of her four competitive college years.
Unlike the Beijing Olympics, the London Olympics seem to be at the perfect time for the athlete. If she were to be granted a fourth year at SMU, she would have until July of 2012 to qualify once she graduates. She began prepping for the games last year.
While du Toit said she wants to throw for as long as she can, she already has plans for her life after she has finished competing. Simply put, she wants to "change the world." She says that her time in Dallas has inspired her to return home one day and help the people of her country.
"I want to take every single cent I earn after college and push it into the South African youth," du Toit said.
She also recognizes the negative relations between blacks and whites in South Africa and hopes she can do something one day to make the people realize the world does not need to discriminate.
Du Toit always seems to be optimistic. She hopes this year's FIFA World Cup in South Africa will improve relations among races. She also hopes that athletics will eventually open doors for her philanthropic plans. She is optimistic that she can achieve these goals.
Du Toit's world aspirations may seem naïve to some, but no one should dare say that to the girl who has already accomplished so many of her dreams.