South Africa’s Olympic boss lauded double amputee Oscar Pistorius on Tuesday after the Blade Runner scooped an accolade at the Laureus World Sports Awards.
Gideon Sam, president of the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc), said the country would rely on Pistorius to boost them up the medals’ table at the London Paralympic games in August.
“There’s no doubting Oscar will be one of the key weapons in our battle to win even more medals at the Paralympics,” Sam said.
“He is not only a Paralympics legend already, not only a fine ambassador for South Africa but also a role model to both athletes with disabilities as well as able-bodied athletes.”
Pistorius, who competes on carbon fibre blades, was named Sportsperson of the Year with a Disability at the Laureus awards function in London.
Pistorius had a phenomenal 2011, setting a personal best 400m time of 45.07 seconds in Lignano, Italy.
He also clinched silver as part of the South Africa 4x400m relay team in Daegu, South Korea, to become the first amputee track athlete to win a medal at the World Athletics Championships.
Earlier at the global showpiece, the 25-year-old had reached the semi-finals of the individual 400m sprint.
In Paralympic competition, he lost a 100m race for the first time in seven years — pipped on the line by American Jerome Singleton — but won gold in the 200m, 400m and 4x100m events at the Paralympic World Athletics Championships in New Zealand.
At the Paralympic World Cup, Pistorius smashed his own 400m Paralympic world best, recording a time of 47.28.
At the 2012 Laureus awards, which recognised athletes for performances in the 2011 calendar year, he held off challenges from Brazilians Daniel Dias (swimming), and Terezinha Guilhermina (athletics), Dutch wheelchair tennis star Esther Vergeer, British wheelchair athlete David Weir and Russian skier Irek Zaripov.
Pistorius was also nominated for the World Breakthrough of the Year award, which was won by Irish golf sensation Rory McIlroy. — Sapa