At Daegu 2011, Pistorius will finally fly

Submitted by Yomi Omogbeja on 13 August 2011 - 8:08pm

South Africa's Oscar Pistorius will finally become the first amputee to compete at the World's major athletics championships later this month in Daegu, South Korea after he was named in the South African team to the event.

The 24-year-old, who's also called the 'Blade Runner' and has been described as 'the fastest man on earth with no legs' for his use of the speacially made carbon fibre legs - the Össur Flex-Foot Cheetahs - to run.

Pistorius competed across a number of able-bodied races in the summer of 2011 and posted three times under 46 seconds, but it was in Lignano, Italy, on 19 July that he set a personal best of 45.07s in the 400m, attaining the World Championships and Olympic Games ‘A’ standard qualification mark.

With this week's selection to represent South Africa in both the 400m and 4x400m relay at the IAAF World Athletics Championships in Daegu, Pistorius has seen his dream come true.

In 2008, the IAAF ruled they gave him an unfair advantage but he took his case to the Court of Arbitration for Sports which ruled that Pistorius can legally compete in IAAF athletics races wearing the Cheetahs later that year.

A delighted Oscar Pistorius said: “I am thrilled to have been announced on the South African team today [Monday] to compete at the IAAF World Championships in Daegu in the 400m and 4x400m relay. I have dreamt for such a long time of competing in a major Championships and this is a very proud moment in my life.

"It is an honour to be representing my country at such a prestigious event and I hope to do my best at the competition for South Africa. I am training hard in preparation for the event and I am looking forward to the Championships immensely.

“The IAAF is a world-class governing body for our sport and I am grateful to have the chance to run in their events. It will be a great day for me when I set out on the track in Daegu and I hope to do my country proud.

"This will be the highest-profile and most prestigious able-bodied event which I have ever competed in and I will face the highest-calibre of athletes from across the planet." 

"If I manage to make it through the heats, I would be thrilled. A good performance for me would be to be consistent through the heats. If I ran anywhere close to my PB, I would be delighted,” he added.

Early Years

Oscar Pistorius was born on 22 November 1986 without the fibula, the long, slender bone running along the outside of the leg from below the knee joint and down to the ankle, in each of his legs.

His parents, Henk and Sheila, consulted with some of the leading doctors in the world before making the heart-wrenching decision to have his legs amputated below the knee by South African orthopaedic surgeon Dr Gerry Versveld.

His parents were advised by doctors that having the amputation done before Oscar had learnt to walk would be less traumatic for him and would greatly improve his chances of mobility in later life.

Six months later he received his first pair of prosthetic legs and within days he had mastered them. Supported and encouraged by his sports-mad family, Oscar lived an active life which led to him becoming a keen sportsman during his school years.

Whatever the sport, Oscar played it, with his main focus being waterpolo and rugby in secondary school. He also played cricket, tennis, took part in triathlons and Olympic club wrestling and was an enthusiastic boxer.

In June 2003, he shattered his knee playing rugby for Pretoria Boys High School and feared that his sporting career was over at the age of 16.

On the advice of Dr Versveld, Oscar took up track running to aid his rehabilitation and began training under the guidance of coach Ampie Louw at the Sports Science Institute at the University of Pretoria.

Proud Paralympian

After a few months in the gym, Oscar took part in his first track session on New Year’s Day, 2004.

Three weeks later he entered a school 100 metres race on the prompting of one of his teachers and won in a time of 11.72 seconds.

After the race his father looked up how Oscar’s time compared to the best in the world and Henk discovered that his 17-year-old son’s time was faster than the existing Paralympic world record of 12.20s.

In June 2004, he was given his first pair of Össur manufactured Flex-Foot Cheetahs and eight months after first stepping onto the track, the South African created a sensation in the athletics world by winning the T44 200m gold medal at the Athens Paralympics, breaking the world record with a time of 21.97s.

He also returned home with a bronze medal in the 100m and overnight was propelled onto front and back pages around the world.

Oscar is a proud Paralympian and believes that the Paralympic Games in London will be a high watermark for the Paralympic movement. Oscar has ambitions to continue to promote the Paralympic movement and educate and inspire people around the world about the Paralympic Games.

Bridging The Gap

Spurred on by his achievements at the Paralympic Games, Oscar set his sights on competing against able-bodied athletes and at the South African Championships in March 2005 he finished sixth in the 400m final.

His performances continued to gain attention and headlines across the world and after he had won gold in the T44 100m and 200m disciplines at the Paralympic World Cup in Manchester, England, he was invited by the IAAF to run in a Grand Prix meeting in Helsinki but was unable to attend due to school commitments.

It was at the IAAF Golden Gala event at the Olympic Stadium in Rome on 13 July 2007 that Pistorius first competed internationally against able-bodied athletes. In the ‘B’ race, he finished second across 400m in a time of 46.90s.

IAAF Ruling

In November 2007, Oscar was invited to take part in a series of scientific tests at the Cologne Sports University under the guidance of Professor of Biomechanics Dr Peter Brüggemann in conjunction with Mr Elio Locatelli, who was responsible with the IAAF of all technical issues.

After two days of tests Brüggemann reported on his findings on behalf of the IAAF. The report claimed that Pistorius was able to run at the same speed as able bodied athletes while using less energy and that his prosthetic limbs gave him an advantage over able-bodied athletes.

Pistorius strongly challenged the report claiming that the tests were biased and scientifically flawed. Following an IAAF vote, Pistorius was banned from all able-bodied athletics competitions.

Pistorius employed the services of law firm Dewey & LeBoeuf to challenge the ruling via an appeal and travelled to America to take part in a series of further tests carried out at Rice University in Houston by a team of scientists including Hugh Herr, Ph.D. and Rodger Kram, Ph.D.

After a two day hearing, on 16 May 2008 the Court of Arbitration for Sport upheld Oscar's appeal and the IAAF council decision was revoked with immediate effect.

The CAS panel unanimously determined that Dr. Brüggemann only tested Oscar's biomechanics at full-speed when he was running in a straight line (unlike a real 400m race), that the IAAF did not consider the disadvantages that Oscar suffers at the start and acceleration phases of the race, that Dr. Brüggemann did not consider disadvantages that Oscar suffers, and that overall there was no evidence that Oscar had any net advantage over able-bodied athletes.

Pistorius' ability to train sufficiently for Beijing had been hampered by the scientific testing and court proceedings and yet he finished third at the Spitzen Leichtathletik meeting in Lucerne with a personal best time of 46.25s - 0.70 seconds outside the Olympic qualifying time.

Pistorius concentrated on the Paralympics in Beijing and became the first athlete in history to win gold in the 100m, 200m and 400m events in the T43/T44 category, the latter in a new Paralympic record of 47.49s.

Career In Progress

On 21 February 2009, Oscar suffered serious head and facial injuries in a boat accident on the Vaal River in Johannesburg. He was airlifted to hospital and was in intensive care for five days.

The accident altered his lifestyle and strengthened his focus. He recovered from his injuries and turned his attention to continuing to break Paralympic records and working to achieve the required time for Olympic qualification.

In January 2011, a slimmer, trimmer Pistorius won three IPC Athletics World titles in New Zealand but was beaten for the first time in seven years in the 100m by American Jerome Singleton.

Oscar subsequently won the T44 400m in 47.28s and the 100m in 11.04s at the BT Paralympic World Cup in May to reassert himself as the world's leading Paralympic sprinter.

Facts File

Born: 22 November 1986
Place of Birth: Johannesburg, South Africa
Hometown: Pretoria, South Africa
Amputation Level: Bi-lateral, below the knee
Main Events: 100m, 200m, 400m
Competitive Class: T43/T44
T43: Double below knee amputees and other athletes with impairments that are equivalent to a double below knee amputation
T44: Single below knee amputees and other athletes with impairments that are equivalent to single below knee amputee.
Personal Bests:
100m: 10.91 seconds (South Africa, April 2007)
200m: 21.41 seconds (South Africa, March 2010)
400m: 45.07 seconds (Italy, July 2011)
Sponsors: Nike, BT, Oakley, Thierry Mugler

[Addditional Information from Team Pistorius/FastTrack Agency]