After years as the poster boy of the Paralympics, a chastened Oscar Pistorius moved Monday to defuse the row that threatens to blemish the clean-cut image he forged during a protracted struggle for acceptance within sport.
Throughout numerous legal fights to be allowed to compete alongside able-bodied rivals, Pistorius could at least always count on returning as the icon of the Paralympics and collecting gold medals.
However, the era of Paralympic invincibility for the so-called “Blade Runner” appeared to end when his bid for a third straight gold in the 200m was thwarted on Sunday night by another double amputee on carbon fiber prostheses.
Victory seemed certain for Pistorius when he reached the bend on the London track, but Alan Oliveira of Brazil came storming down the home straight on his blades to overtake the defending champion.
Rather than hailing his rival, Pistorius accused the 20-year-old Brazilian of gaining an unfair edge by using lengthened blades. That is despite spending years himself convincing authorities that he should be allowed to compete in the Olympics — a feat he achieved last month — because his prostheses did not influence his athletic capabilities.
Having called on the world to focus on the abilities of athletes rather than their disabilities before the London Games, Pistorius has shifted the spotlight back onto the advantage technology might provide.
To many, the South African sounded like a sore loser by launching his tirade within minutes of his first ever Paralympic loss in the 200m, failing to defend the first of three titles from Beijing.
“I would never want to detract from another athlete’s moment of triumph,” he said in a statement on Monday. “And I want to apologize for the timing of my comments.”
However, Pistorius was unwavering in his determination to ensure the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) tightens the formula used to calculate the acceptable length of blades.
“I do believe that there is an issue here and I welcome the opportunity to discuss it with the IPC, but I accept that raising these concerns immediately as I stepped off the track was wrong,” Pistorius said.
“That was Alan’s moment and I would like to put on record the respect I have for him. I am a proud Paralympian and believe in the fairness of sport. I am happy to work with the IPC, who obviously share these aims,” he said.