Over the next four weeks, Africa.com will be profiling athletes and sharing stories from the continent to London as the 2012 Summer Olympics get underway!
South African sprinter Oscar Pistorius, also known as the “Blade Runner,” was born in 1986 in Johannesburg. Pistorius was born with a congenital absence of the fibula in both legs and subsequently had both his legs amputated between the ankle and knee at the age of 11 months. Pistorius’ story is one of note; he is the first disable-bodied athlete to participate in the London Olympics this summer. However, there has been controversy over his prosthetic limbs, as some critics claim that he has an advantage over able-bodied athletes.
Pistorius holds the world records for the 100-, 200-, and 400-meter events in the T44 sport class, which is reserved for disabled athletes. At the 2004 Athens Paralympics, he won gold with a record time of 21.97 seconds. Pistorius then went on to compete against able-bodied athletes at the South African Cha
mpionships in 2005, and in the same year he went on to win the 100m, 200m, and 400m events at the Paralympic World Cup. He was also invited by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) to compete in the July 2005 IAAF Grand Prix in Helsinki, Finland. However, due to school commitments, he was unable to attend the event.
In 2007 the IAAF conducted research on Pistorius’ prosthetic legs, and found that it afforded him certain advantages, thus ruling Pristorius’ prostheses ineligible for participation against able-bodied athletes. Although Pistorius won the appeal against the IAAF—resulting in the revocation of the rule against the participation of athletes with prostheses—he did not qualify for the 2008 Beijing Olympics. He did, however, perform exceptionally at the 2008 Summer Paralympics: he won gold in the 100m, 200m, and 400m events, completing the 400m race in a world-record time of 47.49 seconds. However, there is a still debate in the sport’s world on the implications of his prosthetic limbs.
Oscar Pistorius performed well against able-bodied athletes at the 2011 World Championships in Daegu, South Korea. He was a part of the South African 4 x 400 meter relay team that broke the national record time; the team completed the relay in 2 minutes, 59.21 seconds. The South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee announced on July 4th of this year that Pistorius has been included in the South African Olympic squad. He will be competing in the 400m and the 4 x 400m relay events, being the first double amputee runner at the Olympic games. In response to being admitted to the Olympic team, Pistorius said, “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 4 x 400m relay is a real honor and I am pleased that years of hard work, determination and sacrifice have all come together.”