South African Oscar Pistorius will make history in Daegu when he becomes the first amputee athlete to compete at the World Athletics Championships, one step towards running at the 2012 London Olympics.
Known as the Blade Runner because he runs with carbon fibre prosthetic running blades, Pistorius was selected for the 400m and is part of his country’s 4x400m relay squad for the August 27 to September 4 worlds.
Cleared three years ago to run against able-bodied athletes, the 24-year-old four-time Paralympic gold medallist left it late to qualify for the team, going under the requisite time at his final chance with a personal best of 45.07 seconds — which also gives him the green light for the London Games.
“I have dreamt for such a long time of competing in a major championship and this is a very proud moment in my life. It is an honour to be representing my country at such a prestigious event,” Pistorius said.
“I hope to do my best at the competition for South Africa. I am training hard in preparation and I am looking forward to the championships immensely.
“The IAAF [International Association of Athletics Federations] 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 hope to do my country proud.”
Johannesburg-born Pistorius, who had both legs amputated below the knee when he was 11 months old because of a congenital condition that meant he was born without fibulae — lower leg bones –, acknowledged that he faced an immense challenge at the Worlds.
“This will be the highest profile and most prestigious able-bodied event which I have 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 personal best, I would be delighted.”
Pistorius failed to qualify for the 400m at the 2008 Beijing Olympics having been given the green light to attempt to qualify after the Court of Arbitration for Sport overturned a ruling by the IAAF that his blades gave him an unfair advantage.
London Olympics chief Sebastian Coe welcomed Pistorius’s qualification for the 2012 Games, saying the double amputee’s participation will be a “fascinating” prospect.
“We worked through that process of understanding him as a competitor, understanding the nature of melding within our championships the potential inclusion of athletes with disability,” Coe said.
“That has now been resolved and I welcome Oscar to London, as I will to Daegu.” — AFP