Oscar Pistorius: The Blade Runner Makes Olympic History

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REUTERS/Paolo Bona

Oscar Pistorius of South Africa (R) competes during the men's 100 metres event at the Athletics Meeting in Milan September 18, 2011. Pistorius won the race.

Oscar Pistorius is an athlete with the musculature of a man born to run. And the fact that he was a double-amputee before his first birthday has never slowed him down.

Pistorious has achieved his dream: he will represent South Africa in the London Olympics, as Pistorious qualified in both the individual 400m race, and the 4x400m relay. It is a historic achievement, marking the first time ever that an amputee will compete in both the Olympics and Paralympics.

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The news came Wednesday, as the South African Olympic committee added Pistorius’ nameto its list of 125 track and field athletes coming to London. He has run two Olympic ‘A’ standard times over the course of this year, but was unable to do so at an international meet, as required by the national federation’s qualifying standards.

For the South African Olympic committee, who insisted throughout the qualifying season that they would not make an exception for Pistorius, the decision to include Pistorius, at the end, seemed easy. Speaking with the AP, the South African Olympic committee’s President Gideon Sam said “As I have said many times before, we are not taking passengers to London.”

The 25-year old took to Twitter to express his own delight at the turn of events:

Today is really one of the happiest days of my life! Will be in @London2012 for both the Olympic and Paralympic Games!

Pistorius is undoubtedly one of South Africa’s best home grown sporting talents. He has garnered media attention for both his abilities on the track as well as controversies around the tools of his trade. His Flex-Foot Cheetahs – the J-shaped carbon fiber prosthetics that mimic the way a cat’s hind legs work – have been used by amputees since the 1990s, though not many have excelled in running with them the way Pistorius has.

For the South-African, who has grown up playing sports with able-bodied athletes, qualifying for the Games was a long battle. The IAAF banned him from the Olympics in Beijing, arguing that carbon-fiber limbs provided him with an advantage over other competitors. The Court of Arbitration overturned these findings however, noting that those using artificial limbs had disadvantages in accelerating at the start. (Pistorious was not fast enough to qualify for Beijing).

In 2011, there was controversy also at the IAAF World Athletics Championships when he was left out of the deciding race for the South African team. He nevertheless won a silver medal – again, making history as the first amputee to win an able-bodied medal.

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As a four-time Paralympic gold-medal holder (he took gold in the 100m, 200m and 400m), Pistorius will be hoping to not just run alongside able-bodies athletes; he’ll be shooting for a medal. If he won one, he’d become an even bigger inspiration – though he’s already inspired the world many times over.