South Africa’s Oscar Pistorius said he was on the verge of tears after becoming the first double amputee to compete on the track at an Olympic Games yesterday, in front of a packed crowd.
Pistorius, who races wearing carbon fiber prosthetic blades after being born without a fibula in both legs, qualified for the semi-finals to huge cheers with a season’s best of 45.44 seconds, behind winner Luguelin Santos of the Dominican Republic.
“I know Pistorius was the star of that [first heat] race, but I still love him,” world junior champion Santos said.
Nicknamed “Blade Runner,” the 25-year-old, who is also in South Africa’s 4x400m relay team, raced to huge cheers and looked comfortable throughout despite admitting he had been a bag of nerves before the race.
“I was so nervous this morning. Thanks to everyone for showing their support. I didn’t know whether to cry. I had a mixture of emotions,” Pistorius said. “It was the most amazing experience, the crowd was amazing. I saw the South African flag ... Just the experience of being here is a dream come true.”
The US’ 2008 Olympic champion, LaShawn Merritt, pulled up early on in his heat with what appeared to be a hamstring problem.
Grenadian world champion Kirani James, who comfortably came through his heat in first place, is likely to battle it out with Santos for the title in London.