"I don’t know what to expect and I think that might be a good thing"
Double Paralympic champion Charl du Toit lines up in his first 100m race since winning gold at Rio 2016 when he competes at the Paris World Para Athletics Grand Prix in France next week (30-31 May).
The South African has endured a frustrating few months with injury, but after racing alongside Olympic 400m champion Wayde van Niekerk in his only race so far this year, he is eager to discover his form against top Para athletes now too.
“It’s always nice racing against someone of that calibre,” explained du Toit, who lined up against the 400m world record holder and fellow South African at the University Sport South Africa Championships in April.
“He’s world-class; we made some jokes in our training group – I’m racing a world champion and Wayde made a joke as well that there are two world record holders in the race, so that was quite funny.
“I was just so thankful to be racing again after such a long lay-off. For the first time, I didn’t have times in my head, I just wanted to race and get the feeling of racing again.”
One year ago, du Toit broke the 100m T37 world record in Nottwil, Switzerland. The achievement served to bolster his belief in his own abilities after winning 400m silver and finishing out of the medals in the shorter sprints at Doha 2015.
The Stellenbosch-based Para athlete suddenly knew the top of the podium was well within his reach - and so it proved. Du Toit was in record-breaking form once again at Rio 2016, where he won 100m and 400m T37 gold.
He explained: “I always lacked that feeling of ‘Am I good enough to be number one?’
“Breaking the world record gave me the confidence going into Rio knowing that I’m lucky enough to be ranked with the top guys in the world, and I’ve shown myself that I have what it takes to be one of the best out there. That was a confidence booster.”
The Paris meeting is the seventh in the 2017 Grand Prix series, and with less than seven weeks to go until the London 2017 World Para Athletics Championships, the 24-year-old regards the event as a ‘huge stepping stone’ towards his first global title.
As well as racing over 100m, the Grand Prix will also provide du Toit with a chance to achieve the 200m T37 qualifying standard needed for July’s World Championships.
“I think I have some butterflies, but it’s good butterflies. The last time I raced 100m was at the Paralympics so it will be special,” said du Toit who takes on the 100m and 200m in the French capital.
“I don’t know what to expect and I think that might be a good thing. I just want to go out and race again. I don’t have any results or times in my head, I haven’t analysed it like I usually would. I just want to know where I’m at, where my season is and where we can put some work in.
“I know it’s a short time frame, it’s not the ideal preparation for London that I would have wanted, but it is what it is and at least I have the opportunity of racing again, that is my main thing.
“It’s great that the sport is growing and I know that it isn’t going to be easy to win London. But nothing is going to come easy – there is a lot of stiff competition that you have to respect.”