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04 Aug 2012 13:13
Oscar Pistorius leads Jamaica's Rusheen McDonald, left, Dominican Republic's Luguelin Santos, second left and Russia's Maksim Dyldin, right, in a men's 400-meter heat during the athletics in the Olympic Stadium at the 2012 Summer Olympics, London.(Anja Niedringhaus, AP)
South Africa's Oscar Pistorius said he was on the verge of tears after becoming the first double amputee to compete on the track at an Olympic Games on Saturday in front of a packed crowd.
Pistorius, who races wearing carbon fibre prosthetic blades after being born without a fibula in both legs, qualified for the semi-finals to huge cheers with a season's best of 45.44 seconds behind winner Luguelin Santos of the Dominican Republic.
"I know Pistorius was the star of that (first heat) race but I still love him," world junior champion Santos said.
Nicknamed 'Blade Runner', the 25-year-old who is also in South Africa's 4x400m relay team, raced to huge cheers and looked comfortable throughout despite admitting he had been a bag of nerves before the race.
"I was so nervous this morning. Thanks to everyone for showing their support.
I didn't know whether to cry.
"It was the most amazing experience, the crowd was amazing. I saw the South African flag… Just the experience of being here is a dream come true."
In 2008, Pistorius, successfully appealed against an International Amateur Athletics Federation (IAAF) decision to ban him from running in able-bodied events.
One man who will not be joining Pistorius in the next round is America's 2008 Olympic champion LaShawn Merritt, who pulled up early on in his heat with what appeared to be a repeat of a hamstring problem that has troubled him in recent weeks.
His absence means Grenadian world champion Kirani James, who comfortably came through his heat in first place, is likely to battle it out with Santos for the title in London.
James (19) said he had wished Pistorius luck before his race: "Oscar is someone I respect. It takes a lot of courage and confidence to do what he has done today. Hats off to him."
Belgian twin brothers Kevin and Jonathan Borlee won their heats with the latter setting a new national record of 44.43 seconds, the fastest time of the day. - Reuters.
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