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Olympic Sprinter Oscar Pistorius - aka The Blade Runner
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.
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.
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.
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.
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