In First for Olympics, Amputee Will Run
Oscar Pistorius, the double-amputee runner who has forced sports officials and fans to reconsider the distinction between disabled and able-bodied athletes, was named Wednesday to South Africa’s Olympic track team for this summer’s London Games. He will become the first amputee to compete in track at the Olympics and instantly joins athletes like Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt as one of the Games’ biggest attractions.
His presence on the most prominent stage in sports will no doubt rekindle an international debate over whether his J-shaped, carbon-fiber prosthetic blades give him an unfair advantage.
“Today is truly one of the proudest days of my life,” Pistorius said in a statement.
His Olympic hopes were seemingly extinguished last week when he failed in his final attempt to meet South Africa’s qualifying standard. But in a surprise announcement Wednesday, his country’s Olympic committee said he was worthy of a spot on the team for the individual 400 meters and the 4x400-meter relay. He will be considered a long shot to win a medal in either event; simply advancing to the finals would be a success.
When Pistorius attaches his prosthetic limbs and steps to the starting line for the 400-meter preliminary heats on Aug. 4, he will break preconceived notions of what it means to be disabled and provide a glimpse into the future, said Hugh Herr, the director of the Biomechatronics Group at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and one of Pistorius’s most vocal advocates.