The most inspiring story of this summer’s Olympics is one that was relatively unknown until yesterday. No offense to Americans like Michael Phelps, Missy Franklin, Gabby Douglas and Allison Schmitt, but no story coming out of the American Olympic team can compare to that of a South African track star. Oscar Pistorius made his Olympic debut yesterday as he ran the a 400 meter qualifying heat. For those of you who have not been tuning into the games or just missed yesterday’s results, Pistorius made history which had nothing to do with his second place finish and entry into the semi-finals which were run earlier today. His major triumph is due to the fact that Pistorius entered the race on two prosthetic carbon legs, becoming the first amputee sprinter to ever compete in an Olympic games.
Pistorius was born with a rare disability, in which he was lacking a fibula in both of his legs. As a result, doctors were forced to amputate his legs between his knees and ankles. Oscar never considered himself disabled however, and as he grew up with prosthetic legs, he competed in sports like tennis, water polo, rugby and even wrestling with able-bodied peers. In 2004, Pistorius took up running and has turned that passion into an unbelievable story which culminated with an appearance in London this weekend.
Pistorius has earned the nicknames “Blade Runner” and “the fastest man with no legs”, but along with the accolades has come a lot of criticism. Competitors have said they believe the Pistorius has a major advantage due to springs in his prosthetic legs that give him an extra bounce. Scientists, before the Beijing Olympics, completed a study on Pistorius’ various times in races and concluded that he was receiving an unfair advantage, and a governing body of International Athletics ruled that any one using a “device” such as Pistorius was unable to race against able bodied athletes. Thankfully Oscar fought the result and it was overturned by the Court of Arbitration for Sport, and Oscar was able to compete once again.
Pistorius attempted to qualify for the Olympics in Beijing back in 2008, but failed to reach the time he need and instead ran and won gold medals in the Paralympics. For the past four years leading up to yesterday, he has trained and worked for the opportunity to compete in the London Olympic games. All of his hard work paid off as he was chosen by the South African Track team to run in the 400 meters and the 4 × 400 meters relay races. Sadly, in today’s semi-final heat of the 400 meters, Pistorius finished in 8th and failed to qualify for the medal round. However, he still has another shot to run as part of the relay, and he has already done enough at this point to serve as a symbol of perseverance and hope for anyone in the world who has huge obstacles to overcome, including millions of amputees across the globe.
Pistorius’s story is largely unknown in America, mainly because he is in his first Olympics and is from South Africa. However, if this man was American, he would be the story of the games, even with an 8th place finish in the semis. I truly believe that Oscar Pistorius needs to be honored by the Olympic Committee in some way, let him stand on the podium and listen to the South African National Anthem so everyone in the world can honor him for completing a much more difficult task than capturing a gold medal.