Oscar Pistorious is running the 400 meters at the 2011 World Track and Field Championships. He also competed in the Paralympics in Beijing, but this is his first able-bodied World championship event.
He runs on prosthetic devices attached below the knees. Born without bones in his lower legs, he has been very active in sports since childhood when he played rugby, water polo and tennis. After a knee injury during rugby he took up running.
In 2004 he ran in the Paralympics at Athens placing well and winning the 200 meters, though he fell in the qualifying round. His winning time in the 200 was a world record for this class of competitor. Running on metal devices must be unnerving, because they don’t contain nerves and the components of the lower extremities that help with balancing, such as ten toes, foot muscles, and ankles.
He runs on Cheetah Flex-Foot prosthetics which were created by a company in Iceland. Critics have said the devices give him an advantage over able-bodied competitors but this notion has not been proven scientifically, and has remained a controversial subject. This year’s administrators of the World Track and Field Championships clearly did not believe he has an unnatural advantage because they allowed him to enter the competition.
In 2005 he ran the 400 meters in the national able-bodied South African championships, placing sixth. (South Africa is his home and birthplace.) In 2008 he tried to qualify for the South African 4 x 400 relay to compete in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. He missed making the team by less than one second. He made the South African national team this year, by setting a personal best in the 400 of 45.07. If he can run that fast in 2012 he could be selected again for the South African national team and compete in the 2012 London Olympics.
He is known for this quote: ”You’re not disabled by the disabilities you have, you are able by the abilities you have.”
Image Credit: Elvar Pálsson