Athletics: Oscar winner? Pistorius looking to make history
By contesting the individual and relay 400 metres for South Africa at London 2012, Oscar Pistorius will become the first amputee to take part in the Olympic games next month.
But Pistorius admits that even as he prepares to make history, there are those who insist he should never have been allowed to compete in the events.
The 25-year-old, who runs using prosthetic limbs, is no stranger to running in able-bodied events; at the 2011 World Athletics Championship in Daegu, he made it as far as the semi-finals in the 400m individual event, and won a silver medal for his part in the 400m relay team.
But while Pistorius’ artificial limbs have led to the South African being dubbed ‘the Blade Runner,’ there have also been claims that the very instruments that allow him to compete alongside fellow athletes also give him an unfair advantage.
Pistorius was prevented from competing in the 2008 Olympics because of his carbon fibre limbs – though that ruling was later overturned in the Court of Arbitration for Sport. And while Pistorius has been cleared to compete at this year’s games, the criticism over his inclusion has continued in some circles.
"You'll find a journalist who has not approached the story properly, or somebody with the title of professor or doctor who wants to make a name for himself," the runner told the Daily Telegraph earlier this week. "He will argue that water is dry, or that orange used to be green. They will try to be controversial for the sake of it.”
"Honestly, this is not something I can give much more energy to. I would be answering these questions for days."
Not that it's just journalists who have raised concerns; even the current 400m world record holder Michael Johnson has questioned the decision to allow Pistorius to compete. “I know the comments that Michael has made,” Pistorius says of a man he calls a friend. “But he doesn’t question the technology that I’m using. He worries about the technology that manufacturers might come up with the future.
"He’s a very calculated guy, he wouldn’t ever say something just to get a reaction. I have a lot of respect for him. Plus, he has taken time to speak to the people who have done my tests. With these comments, he has definitely thought about them twice.
“Michael knows that the leg I’m using is not a cutting-edge piece of equipment. There isn’t a single other Paralympic athlete besides me who has even run under 50 seconds in the 400m using one.”
Instead, Pistorius is focused on his actual performance – even if the man from Johannesburg is realistic about his chances. “[I want] a decent position in the semi-final. I wasn’t happy with my performance at the World Championships in Daegu. I had an unbelievable race in the heats, but misjudged the semi and finished last. This time I’ll have to go flat-out from the start.”
Of course, should he actually win, the dissenting voices will only grow louder – though Pistorius himself will likely also find plenty of supporters too.
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