Oscar Pistorius, a double-amputee runner was named to South Africa’s (RSA) Olympic track team for the London Games. Pistorius, 25, was born in Johannesburg, RSA and was just 11 months old when he was diagnosed with congenital absence of the fibula in both legs and had them amputated halfway between his knees and ankles.
Nevertheless, he grew up playing rugby, water polo, tennis and wrestling; in 2004, he was introduced to running and soon competing in both Paralympic and able-bodied events. He runs on J-shaped, carbon-fiber prosthetic blades known as Cheetahs. He will become the first amputee to compete in track at the Olympics, and has forced sports officials and fans to reconsider the distinction between disabled and able-bodied athletes.
In 2007, the International Association of
Athletics Federations (I.A.A.F.), the world governing body for track and
field, funded a research project examining Pistorius’s performance in an attempt to determine whether he should be allowed to compete against able-bodied
athletes. In 2008, they declared Pistorius ineligible, citing
advantages from his “bouncing” movement and need for less oxygen and
fewer calories than able-bodied athletes running at the same speed.
Pistorius challenged the ruling, and the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Switzerland voted unanimously to reverse the I.A.A.F. decision.
scientists are not convinced that Pistorius’s Cheetahs don’t give him
an advantage. One argument is that because the blades are so much lighter than a human leg, Pistorius can turn over his prosthetic legs unnaturally fast.
Since he was cleared by the court in May 2008 to run against able-bodied athletes, Pistorius has made it his mission to compete in
the Olympics and Paralympics in the same year. He failed to qualify for
the 2008 Beijing Olympics, but won three golds at the Paralympics
in Beijing — to add to the gold and bronze he won at the 2004
Paralympics in Athens. He has qualified for the London Paralympics in the 100, 200, 400 and 4x100 relay with his times at last year’s world champions
His Olympic hopes seemed dashed when he failed in his final attempt to meet RSA’s qualifying standard. But in a surprise announcement, RSA’s Olympic committee said he was worthy of a spot for the individual 400 meters and the 4x400-meter relay. He will be considered a long shot to win a medal in either event; simply advancing to the finals would be a success.
When Pistorius attaches his prosthetic limbs and steps to the starting line for the 400-meter preliminary heats on Aug. 4, he will break preconceived notions of what it means to be disabled and provide a glimpse into the future. But, his presence on the most prominent stage in sports will undoubtedly rekindle an international debate over whether his Cheetahs give him an unfair advantage.
If Pistorius advances out of the preliminary heats in the 400, he will compete in the semifinals on Aug. 4 and possibly in the final on Aug. 5. The preliminary heats for the 4x400 relay are Aug. 9, and the final is Aug. 10. Pistorius also plans to compete in four Paralympic events, when those Games open on Aug. 29.
From www.nytimes.com and blog.zap2it.com