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Oscar Pistorius has already won two Gold medals at the Paralympic Games 2008 in the 100m and 200m. At the time of writing this article he isn’t running the 400m where he has chances to win again. Here is the story of this incredible athlete to whom Composites give a hand, although a foot would have been more convenient.
(Published on October 2008 – JEC Magazine #44)
Oscar Pistorius' reputation as the "fastest thing on no legs" is gaining momentum with every race (Figure 1). A double amputee, the South African phenomenon is the world record holder in his category for the 100, 200 and 400 metres sprints. Even more remarkably, he took the silver medal over 400 meters in the 2007 South African National Championships competing against able-bodied runners.
Faster on the track
Born in November 1986 without the fibula in both legs, Pistorius was only 11 months old when his parents made the wrenching decision to have his limbs amputated below the knee. He says he never really knew anything different. As a child he announced to his father that one day he would play in the Super 8 rugby event, and this would characterize his future approach to life. He did indeed play rugby, water polo and tennis as a schoolboy.
Then in January 2004, Pistorius shattered his right knee on the rugby field. Doctors recommended he switch to track. At age 17, he ran the 100m in an open competition at the Pilditch stadium in his hometown of Pretoria after training for only two months. He ran it in 11.51 seconds: the world record was 12.2.
200m in under 22 seconds
A mere eight months later, Pistorius raced alongside Marlon Shirley and Brian Frasure at the 2004 Athens Paralympics. Creating a sensation in the athletics world, he took the silver medal behind Shirley in the 100m. He also won gold in the 200m, breaking the world record with a time of 21.97 seconds. This made him the first amputee ever to run the 200m in under 22 seconds. He went home with four world records and the determination to do it again.
At the South African Championships in March 2005, Pistorius ran the 400m in the Open/Able-Bodied category and remarkably ranked 6th place in the final competition. That same year, he also won the gold in both the 100m and 200m while representing South Africa in the Paralympic World Cup in Manchester, England. Subsequently, the IAAF invited him to run in a Grand Prix meeting in Helsinki and at the World Championship in Manchester, making him the first disabled athlete ever invited to such events; a huge honour.
Being a bilateral amputee, Pistorius has always competed in both T43 (both legs amputated below the knee) and T44 events (one leg amputated below the knee). His 100m, 200m and 400m T43 world records are all faster than the T44 world records. He credits his carbon fibre Ossur’s Cheetah® Flex Foot running legs - he often refers to them as blades - with enabling him to run at his fastest and accomplish his unique achievements, helping him to move to his next step and past the finish line (Figure 2). Pistorius has now broken his own world records 26 times.
He’s received the go-ahead to compete against able-bodied runners in the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. He wanted to try his best to cut a half second off his best 400 meters time in order to qualify for the South African team. Athletics South Africa has given him extra time to qualify for the team. Finally, he has chosen to compete only for Paralympics. He ran the 100m in 11.17 seconds and the 200m in 21.67 which is a new Paralympic Record. His performances are incredible and he is still young which implies more records to come.