South Africa sending double amputee runner to Olympics
South Africa’s Olympic committee announced it has included Pistorius on its team set to compete in the 2012 London Summer Olympics. Pistorius, who had both his legs amputated below the knees at a young age, will be competing in the 400 meter and the country’s 4×400 meter relay team.
Pistorius initially had to fight in order to be allowed to compete in international competition because many believed the carbon fiber blades he runs on gave him an unfair advantage and should exclude him from the Olympic Games and instead relegate him only to the Paralympic Games. Having cleared that hurdle, Pistorius, tabbed the “Blade Runner,” then had to achieve enough Olympic qualifying standard times in the 400 meters to be included on his country’s team. As of a month ago, South Africa’s Olympic committee said it would not relent on its requirements to qualify. Yet in early July the group included Pistorius on the team despite the fact he fell just short of achieving another time of 45.30 seconds or faster.
Pistorius won’t be the only South African track athlete grabbing headlines in London. Caster Semenya has been in the public spotlight for three years after it was revealed she had to undergo gender testing prior to her winning the 800 meters in the 2009 World Championships. If any good came of the situation, it forced track and field organizations to have a serious discussion about the inclusion of transgendered and transsexual athletes. A year later she was finally cleared to compete again, and in 2011 won a silver in the Worlds. Her personal record (PR) of 1:55.45 makes her a legit threat to medal in London.
Pistorius, on the other hand, would seem like an unlikely medal candidate in London. His 400 PR of 45.07 is impressive, but would have been good for a sixth-place finish in the recent US Olympic Trials, in which only the top three qualify for the Games. The South African 1600-meter relay team that he is a part of, however, is expected to be competitive.
Regardless of the times posted or the medals won, the simple inclusion of Pistorius, and Semenya, should be good for the 2012 London Games because it will shine an even greater light on the paths, often times non-traditional in nature, that some athletes have had to travel in order to acheive their Olympic dreams.