From sideshow to main attraction - Pistorius eyes Paralympics gold

South Africa's Oscar Pistorius starts in the men's 400-metre semifinal during the athletics in the Olympic Stadium at the 2012 Summer Olympics. (Anja Niedringhaus, AP)

South Africa's Oscar Pistorius starts in the men's 400-metre semifinal during the athletics in the Olympic Stadium at the 2012 Summer Olympics. (Anja Niedringhaus, AP)

As he left Olympic Stadium, Oscar Pistorius stopped for a moment and looked back.

The double-amputee runner turned to take in the crowd of 80 000 and reflect on his victory in a four-year fight to compete at the London Games against the world's best able-bodied athletes.

"It's something I will definitely remember for the rest of my life," Pistorius told The Associated Press on Saturday, thinking back to his debut on the biggest track stage in the world. "It's been absolutely phenomenal. In a way, I'm glad the pressure's over."

But there's still more business for the "Blade Runner" in London.

In a few weeks, the South African will be back at the same stadium on his carbon-fiber blades for the Paralympics.
He won't be a sideshow. He'll be the main attraction.

Pistorius is the defending champion in the 100, 200 and 400 metres – and he'll be expected to win four gold medals this time. He also will be on South Africa's 4x100 relay team.

If he wins them all, he'll go home with more gold than Usain Bolt.

"I've always wanted to be at the Olympics and Paralympics at the same games," Pistorius said, still glowing after running the anchor leg in the 4x400 final Friday.

That's soon to come. He also has "the challenge," as he calls it, of defending his 100-metre title. It is going to be a big challenge, too, because Pistorius probably faces the biggest threat yet to his dominance of disabled running when he lines up for the marquee race.

Since the 2008 Paralympics in Beijing, Pistorius has become a 400 specialist in his attempt to compete at the able-bodied Olympics. He also shed about 12 kilograms to suit the longer distance.

Amputee acheivements

Meanwhile, Paralympic sprinting rivals and single amputees Jerome Singleton of the United States and Jonnie Peacock of Britain have focused solely on the 100 and unseating Pistorius over the short race.

"The 100 is going to be the tough one," Pistorius said. "I've really changed in the last four years. I've dropped a lot of weight to accommodate the efficiency for the 400 meters and the guys have been training hard for that 100. I've got to defend my title there and it's going to be a challenge."

Singleton beat Pistorius at last year's world championships, handing the South African his first defeat in the 100 in seven years. The 19-year-old Peacock broke the world record in the single-amputee class in June at 10.85 seconds. Pistorius' world record for double amputees is 10.91.

A third challenger and another single amputee is South African teammate Arnu Fourie. He also has run impressive times and beat Pistorius over 100 metres back home in March.

It's going to be a challenge, sure, but the 25-year-old Pistorius has gotten used to them over the years.

Bans, court cases, battles to qualify – and, most recently, a crash by a teammate in the 4x400 relay semifinals this week that almost ended Oscar's Olympics early.

"We won't hopefully have those (dramas) in the future," he said, laughing, outside the athletes village. "This has been one of the most special moments of my life and I'm sure the Paralympics later this month is going to be exactly the same for me."

Then, it'll be time to rest and reflect until next season. And think about what else he can achieve.

"Next year we've got the world championships in Moscow," said Pistorius, who already has a silver medal with South Africa in the 4x400 relay from last year's worlds. "Looking forward to that as well." – Sapa-AP.

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