‘Blade Runner’ out to defend titles

2012-08-25 09:34
Oscar Pistorius, the first double amputee to compete at an Olympics when he ran in the 400m and 4x400m relay in London, now has his sights on defending three Paralympic titles.

The 25-year-old won gold in the men’s T44 100m, 200m and 400m in Beijing four years ago and is hoping to repeat that feat in the British capital when the Games get under way next week.

“I am really looking forward to (these Games). I think they will be the best ever. It makes me stoked to come out here in this stadium again,” he said.

But the athlete known as the “Blade Runner”, because he runs on carbon fibre blades, could have his work cut out, particularly in the 100m, amid predictions that the sprint will be “the race” of the Games and all eight finalists could go under 11 seconds.

The field is likely to include Britain’s Jonnie Peacock, who lowered the world record to 10.85 earlier this year, as well as the South African’s long-standing rival Jerome Singleton, of the United States, from whom he snatched gold in 2008.

Others likely to line up include South Africa’s Arnu Fourie, who beat Pistorius earlier this year, and American Jaryd Wallace, the 2011 Parapan American Games champion who has run faster than Singleton.

Pistorius is one of sport’s most recognisable and inspirational figures who proves that there is no bar to competition.

“You’re not disabled by your disabilities but abled by your abilities,” he told Athlete magazine in a 2011 interview.

The Johannesburg-born runner had both legs amputated below the knee when he was 11 months old after being born without lower leg bones. But he played sports unhindered while growing up, switching to running after fracturing a knee playing rugby.

At high school, he was so good that his personal fitness coach said she was unaware for six months that he ran on prosthetic legs.

But he was initially banned from competing in the Olympics in Beijing by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) on the grounds that his blades gave him an unfair advantage.

That decision was later overturned on appeal at the Court of Arbitration for Sport, although he ultimately failed to meet the Olympic qualifying standard time.

He went on to win a silver medal as part of the 4x400m relay team at the 2011 World Championships in the South Korean city of Daegu before representing his country in London this year.

On August 4 he ran in the 400m individual heats, finishing second in a season’s best 45.44sec, achieving his goal of reaching the semifinals.

He failed to qualify for the final but went on to run in the relay. Even though South Africa finished last, Pistorius said he would not swap the experience.

“To step out here for an Olympic final is more than I could ever have hoped for. It’s been a truly humbling experience,” he said.

Off the track, Pistorius is an adrenaline junkie, with a love of speed reflected in a passion for motorbikes.

Four years ago he crashed his boat in a river south of Johannesburg, breaking two ribs, an eye socket and his jaw.

He also once owned two white tigers but sold them to a zoo in Canada when they became too big.

Pistorius, accused of being brash in the past, cut a humane figure in London after making history, talking to reporters and speaking with pride at seeing his 89-year-old grandmother in the stadium.

The runner said just taking part in the Olympics was enough, and with the Olympic flame extinguished until the 2016 Rio Games, he is already looking towards the future.

“It (competing in the Olympics) is a dream come true. It’s the most amazing experience of my life, and it will inspire and motivate me for the next four years,” he added.