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Olympic Sprinter Oscar Pistorius - aka The Blade Runner

Updated on August 20, 2017
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Oscar Pistorius running the 400-meter sprint at the 2012 Olympics
Oscar Pistorius running the 400-meter sprint at the 2012 Olympics | Source

Olympic Sprinter

I was hard pressed not to select Oscar Pistorius, aka the Blade Runner, as the August Athlete of the month. His performance in the 2012 London Summer Olympic games was so inspiring and I think the entire world must have been rooting for him. Watching him compete against able-bodied athletes and beat them was one of the most amazing things I’ve seen in athletics in my entire life. So, when Oscar returned to London in late August for the 2012 Summer Paralympics and won the gold medal in the 400 meter sprint (class T44), I knew the time was right to honor this South African sprinter. For his performances in the 2012 Summer Olympics and the 2012 Summer Paralympics, Oscar Pistorius is our Athlete of the Month for September 2012.

His Story

Oscar Pistorius was born on November 22, 1986, in Sandton, Johannesburg, South Africa. He was born with fibular hemimelia (absence of the fibula) and when he was eleven months old both of his legs were amputated below the knee. Despite the obvious obstacles, Oscar became active in sports at a very early age and he credits his late mother as the major influence in his life. Despite not having legs, Oscar competed in numerous sports at an early age including tennis, rugby, water polo and wrestling. It wasn’t until early 2004 when he was 17 that he was introduced to the sport of sprinting after suffering a serious knee injury playing rugby. Little did he know at the time where this decision would take him in life?

Oscar progressed quickly with his newfound talent and by September of 2004 he was competing in the Summer Paralympics being held in Athens, Greece. It was here that he won his first Paralympics medals, a bronze in the 100-meter sprint and a gold in the 200-meter sprint where he set a world record. In both events he competed in the T44 category, which is for one-leg amputees below the knee, even though he is a double amputee.

Cheetah Legs

Oscar Pistorius's "Cheetah Legs"
Oscar Pistorius's "Cheetah Legs" | Source

His "Legs"

So how does Oscar Pistorius run like the wind as a double amputee? His artificial limbs, called the “Flex Foot Cheetah” are carbon-fiber prosthetics that have a “J” shape to them. Developed by American inventor and biomedical engineer, Van Phillips, they have been the source of much controversy since their inception. In 2007 the IAAF (International Association of Athletic Federations) banned the use of any device that incorporates any element that provides the user with an unfair advantage. As such, the “Cheetah legs” were banned as providing an advantage to anyone using them.

In his own words.

Over the next year Oscar continued to train and race while fighting to prove his case that there was no unfair advantage to his prosthetic legs. Finally, in May of 2008, the IAAF upheld Pistorius’s appeal and revoked the ban. It was a victory not just for Oscar, but also for all disabled athletes who wanted nothing more than a chance to compete against able-bodied athletes. Oscar could now continue his quest to qualify for the Olympic games.

In 2008 Oscar returned to the Paralympics, which were being held in Beijing, China, and swept the three races that he competed in. Oscar won the 100, 200 and 400-meter sprints in a span of seven days completing a personal hat trick. He set two Paralympic records along the way and now had his sights set squarely on the 2012 Summer Olympic games to be held in London.

Oscar Pistorius
Oscar Pistorius | Source

In the summer of 2011, Oscar Pistorius ran the 400-meter sprint three times in various competitions in under 46 seconds and set a personal best of 45:07 second. Why is this important? His time of 45:07 had now met the Olympic “A” standard qualifying mark and established Oscar Pistorius as the 15th fastest 400-meter runner in the world. On July 4th, 2012, the news that all of South Africa had been waiting to hear was finally announced. Oscar Pistorius had been selected to the South African Olympic team and would be heading to London to test his skills against the best able-bodied athletes in the world. The rest as they say, is history.

Oscar Pistorius
Oscar Pistorius | Source

On August 4th, 2012, Oscar Pistorius became the first amputee runner to compete in an Olympic games. And compete he did. Oscar came in second in his first heat of the 400-meter sprint and advanced to the semifinals. Oscar also went on to compete in the 4 X 400 meter relay race and carried the South African flag during the closing ceremonies. With little time to rest, Pistorius returned to the track in London in late August and early September for the Paralympic games and went on to win two gold medals and one silver medal and carried the South African flag during the opening ceremonies.

The summer of 2012 was an amazing time for Oscar Pistorius. Unfortunately, the sad circumstances that have occurred since have cast a dark shadow over his athletic accomplishments. Perhaps all of the attention and fame was just too much. Whatever the reasons, it's a painful final chapter to what could have an amazing story.

© 2012 Bill De Giulio

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    • bdegiulio profile image
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      Bill De Giulio 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hey Kathryn. Yes, very sad indeed. His story was so inspirational and to see where he is now is both sad and amazing. I just don't what it is about fame and fortune that changes these athletes.

    • Kathryn Stratford profile image

      Kathryn 4 years ago from Manchester, Connecticut

      It was an amazing story, but what do you think of him now, after the negative news about him? After hearing his inspirational story before the Olympics, it was sad to hear what he did to his girl friend.

    • bdegiulio profile image
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      Bill De Giulio 5 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Nadine. Thank you for the nice comments. I've had a lot of fun selecting and writing about these special athletes. Glad you enjoyed the Hub.

    • bdegiulio profile image
      Author

      Bill De Giulio 5 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Johan. I would hope that Oscar Pistorius has many fans all over the world. Thanks for the visit and comment. Have a great day.

    • Nadene Seiters profile image

      Nadene Seiters 5 years ago from Elverson, PA

      Wow, his story is both inspirational and captivating. The way you wrote this article, I had to read the entire story! This is really great, and I will be going back to read the past Athletes of the Month articles that you have written. I can't wait to see the next one!

    • Johan Smulders profile image

      Johan Smulders 5 years ago from East London, South Africa

      A really great article and an excellent choice - from a South African fan of Oscar.

    • bdegiulio profile image
      Author

      Bill De Giulio 5 years ago from Massachusetts

      Thanks Bill. I found the Oscar Pistorius story to be very inspirational. Watching him run at the Olympics was an amazing sight. Have a great day.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Great series Bill, and this guy deserves so much praise and admiration. Wonderful choice this month!