Fri, Jul 06, 2012 - Page 19 News List

‘Blade Runner’ makes leap into Olympics

The Guardian, LONDON

Oscar Pistorius, the double amputee nicknamed “Blade Runner” who has blurred the boundaries between the Olympic and Paralympic Games, will make history by running in both in London after being confirmed in the South Africa team for the individual 400m and the 4x400m relay.

Pistorius was on Wednesday named in a team of 13 athletes by the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee for the London Olympics and said he was aiming for a personal best time in London.

There was initial confusion over whether Pistorius had been selected for the individual event, having met the Olympic A-standard only once this calendar year. However, he has run faster than the qualifying time of 45.3 seconds twice in the past 12 months, which was deemed enough to be selected for both events.

“Today is truly one of the proudest days of my life. To have been selected to represent Team South Africa at the London 2012 Olympic Games in the individual 400m and the 4x400m relay is a real honor and I am so pleased that years of hard work, determination and sacrifice have all come together,” Pistorius said.

The South African, who had both his legs amputated at the age of 11 months, was banned from running in elite able-bodied competitions by the International Association of Athletics Federations in January 2008, sparking a huge debate about whether his carbon-fiber “blades” conferred an advantage.

That decision was overturned in May 2008 by the court of arbitration for sport, which ruled there was no evidence that Pistorius had a net advantage over able-bodied athletes, but he failed to qualify for the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

He went on to win three gold medals in the Beijing Paralympics in the 100m, 200m and 400m.

The runner made history at last year’s world championships in Daegu by running the opening leg of the 4x400m relay for South Africa.

However, he was controversially dropped for the final, in which his team won a silver medal.

He has used the same carbon-fiber blades for many years, pointing to a steady improvement in his results as evidence that it was talent and dedication that had improved his times, rather than the use of technology.

“I have run two Olympic A-standard times over the past 12 months and with the time I ran at the African championships last week, I know my speed and fitness are constantly improving so that I will peak in time for the Olympics,” Pistorius said. “I have a phenomenal team behind me who have helped get me here and I, along with them, will now put everything we can into the final few weeks of preparations before the Olympic Games, where I am aiming to race well, work well through the rounds, post good times and maybe even a personal best time on the biggest stage of them all.”

Pistorius is expected to return to his training base in Italy before joining up with the rest of the South African squad.

“I am also hugely excited to then be competing to defend my three Paralympic titles at the Paralympic Games. I believe we will see some amazing times posted and I am very much looking forward to what will be an incredible Olympics and Paralympics in London,” he said.

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