Thursday, July 12, 2007

A step closer to the dream

He has been facing an uphill battle since birth but this Sunday, July 15 2007, he is that much closer to a real shot at his dream. He began running four years ago to help recover from a rugby injury, has since set world records in the 100, 200 and 400 and this weekend, he faces running against Olympic class runners.

Oscar Pistorius, 20, a South African double amputee, will get a chance to prove himself against the best runners in the world. He will be running the 400 meters at the Norwich Union Grand Prix in a field that includes Olympic champion Jeremy Wariner, former U S relay gold medalist Darold Williamson, Commonwealth Games 400-meter champion John Steffenson of Australia and former 400-meter Olympic hurdles champion Angelo Taylor.

"I've been chucked in the deep end with the best guys in the world. There's a lot to learn," stated Pistorius Tuesday.

Last month, Pistorius was given permission to race in able-bodied races by the International Association of Athletics Federations but he still faces a struggle to race on the Olympic level. There are still claims that the carbon fiber blades attached below his knee create an unfair advantage for him. The prosthetics he runs on have existed for more than 14 years unchanged and he is not the first runner to use them by far.

Oscar has been running in meets against the able-bodied in South Africa for the past three years and this March, he finished second in the 400 meter at the South African Championships. The world records, he set in the Paralympic as well as winning the gold in the 200 meters at the Athens Paralympics. He has outrun the disabled competitors with his times... the closest single amputee runs about 48 meters behind him and the closest double amputee is 110 meters back in the dust.

His personal best time for the 400 meters is 46.56 and he hopes to run below 46 seconds on Sunday. Wariner has the fastest time this year of 44.02 seconds, Steffanson's best this year is 45.07 and Michael Johnson holds the world record at 43.18. Pistorius needs to run a 46.3 before July 2008 to make the qualifying deadline for the Beijing Olympics and then, still get IAAF approval to run.

The IAAF still maintains that he is getting an unfair advantage among other reasons to not allowing him to run yet. Oscar is willing to meet any tests that they have to offer to prove what he believes isn't true. His goal right now is to make the qualifying standard for the Olympics and continue working towards a chance to run in the Olympics and make it into the finals in 2012 or 2016. He will continue to compete in the Paralympics as well.

"If they ever could find evidence, then I would stop running. It's not something I would want to compete at if I knew I had an unfair advantage," said Pistorius.

So many of us are taught to do our very best in life, Oscar has done that even without lower legs. This Sunday, he will have the opportunity to show everyone the line between handicapped and able-bodied is blurred and that everyone should have the chance to do their very best.

For my past post, go here.

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