Double amputee South African to race at Olympics | Sports| German football and major international sports news | DW | 04.07.2012
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Double amputee South African to race at Olympics

South African sprinter Oscar Pistorius, a double amputee, will compete at this summer's London Olympics. He is the first double amputee in the history of the game, and will look to redeem his country's poor 2008 showing.

The first double amputee will compete at the Olympics. Oscar Pistorius was named in South Africa's 4x400-meter relay team Wednesday for the 2012 London Games.

"Today is really one of the happiest days of my life," the 25-year-old Pistorius wrote on Twitter after the selection.

The news comes at a good time for Pistorius, who just last week failed to qualify for the 400m, coming up just short of the 45.30 time required to run in the Olympics at the African championship in Benin.

Pistorius did clock 45.20 at a Pretoria meet in March, but only international races count in selection for the South African team. Nonetheless, Pistorius was chosen for his country's relay team, and was grateful to hear the news.

"Thank you to everyone who has made me the athlete I am today," he added. "God, family and friends, my competitors and supporters. You have all had a hand."

Called the "Blade Runner", Pistorius was born with no fibulae - lower leg bones - due to a congenital condition. He had both of his legs amputated below the knees before the age of one. He runs with carbon fiber "blades", and was cleared to run at the highest level in 2008 by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).

The CAS ruling overturned a previous decision by the International Association of Athletic Federations which had previously ruled that the blades gave him an unfair competitive advantage.

Some still argue that the prosthetic legs are too beneficial. "The science is fully clear that ... Mr. Pistorius runs considerably faster with his artificial limbs," said Peter Weyand, associate professor of Applied Physiology and Biomechanics at Southern Methodist University in Dallas.

But Pistorius has always insisted he deserved the chance to compete with able-bodied athletes. "The prosthetic legs I'm using, the cheetah, have been around since 1996 and I've had the exact same model, same shape since 2004 and nothing's changed on it," he told reporters.

"The leg has not changed and I have not run on any other prosthetic sprinting leg. My advances in time are down to how hard I train," he added.

Pistorius' is a member of a South African team which hopes to redeem itself after its poor performance in the 2008 Olympics. In Beijing, a team of more than 150 athletes brought home only one medal.

Hopes appear more optimistic this time around. Pistorius was a member of the 4x400-meter-relay team that finished second at the 2011 world championships in South Korea.

"As I have said many times before, we are not taking passengers to London," said South African Olympic Chief Gideon Sam. "Everyone has met selection criteria and are genuine Olympic Games material. I wish them all the best."

dr/rg (AFP/Reuters)