London 2012: South Africa handed 4x400m relay reprieve

Pistorius waits at the change over not aware his colleague has fallen down / Photo: LOCOG

Double-amputee runner Oscar Pistorius will get a shot at an Olympic medal after all, even after his South African team failed to finish the heats of the 4x400 relay.

A jury of appeal said South Africa "had been severely damaged" in a collision between Ofentse Mogawane and a Kenyan runner who cut across him too soon in the second section of Thursday's morning heat. The jury of appeal decided to give the extra ninth lane to South Africa - silver medallists at the last world championships - for Friday's final.

On a hectic morning, it was the second reversal of fortunes for the South African.

First, the South African team never made it to the third section of the 4x400-metre relay in the opening heat after Mogawane crashed and dislocated his shoulder, leaving Pistorius waiting in the changeover zone for a baton that never came.

When he realised the race was lost, Pistorius raised his hands to his head, and waved his arms down in frustration.

"It's not the place you want something like this to happen," Pistorius said.

The judges later ruled that Kenya's Vincent Kiilu had cut across Mogawane, causing the collision. South Africa launched an appeal to get reinstated, but Pistorius at first held out little hope of being added to the final because the team failed to finish the race.

"Even a protest isn't any consolation," he said.

The Reprieve

"The Jury of Appeal met and agreed to advance the South African team to the final, even though they did not finish the race, considering that they had been severely damaged in the incident with Kenya," the IAAF said in a statement. "South Africa will run as an additional team in lane 9."

It is rare for a team to get reinstated if it doesn't reach the finish line.

Now Pistorius still has the chance to leave London with something more than the distinction of becoming the first amputee athlete to run in an Olympic track and field competition.

The loss, beyond South Africa's control, was tough to deal with.

"It's frustrating. It's so hard. You have so much support from back home," Pistorius said.

Mogawane and Kenya's Vincent Kiilu tangled heading into the home straight of the second leg of the relay and the South African runner fell to the track, holding his shoulder in pain.

Pistorius still held his hand out for several seconds, seemingly unclear about what happened, until it slowly dawned on him he would no longer get a chance to run.

"Just really disappointing for us because we came off a second place last year at the word champs in a national record," Pistorius said. "We're all pretty battered,"

Together with anchor runner Willem De Beer, he tried to walk over to his injured teammate but track officials held them back. Pistorius was left to applaud Trinidad and Tobago, which won the heat, ahead of Britain.

Beyond Kenya, Jamaica was another medal contender failing to reach the final after Germaine Gonzales slowed to a walk and sat on the track, holding his left hamstring. Australia and Germany also failed to go through.

For Pistorius, the early exit in the race happened in the blink of an eye.

He had been looking at the giant screen to follow the progress of the race and when he turned to get set in position to receive the baton, the collision had already happened.

"Things do happen in relays and just sorry it had to happen on a day like this," he said. Now, he still gets a second chance.

The Bahamas won the second heat ahead of the United States.

South Africa will be represented by LJ van Zyl, Pistorius, Willie de Beer and Shaun de Jager in the final on Friday at 9:20pm UK Time.

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