A Welcomed Challenge for Oscar Pistorius

Posted by Filed Under: Races & Racing, Resources

Some of you may already be familiar with Oscar Pistorius and his struggles as a track sprinter to try and qualify for the 2008 Olympics. The 20-year-old already has a remarkable record, with a gold medal in the 200m and world records at the 100m and 400m. But they are while competing as a Paralympian. Pistorius is a double amputee who was born without fibulas and uses special carbon fiber blades as his lower legs during running events.

The athlete has repeatedly asked to compete with able-bodied Olympian wannabes to see if he can truly win at their game. But officials have been reluctant to let the lad enter able-bodied track events because they believe his prosthetics may give him a mechanical advantage.


Pistorius, nicknamed Blade Runner, already has run in “regular” meets and done very well, clocking a 46-second 400 as a PR and finishing second in his most recent competition at the South African Championships. But the International Association of Athletics Federations has not been swayed to date. That may change after this upcoming weekend, when Pistorius competes at an international track meet known as the British Grand Prix. Both his performance and the intense press attention could tilt the scales in his favor (“The Blades Versus Shades,” from UK Athletics).

“There’s absolutely no reason why they should keep me from running,” he told the British press recently. “These prosthetics have been around for 14 years, the exact same design. There’s never been an amputee to run close to my time.”

The question this weekend is whether able-bodied runners will be able to run close—or better—than his time as well.

About Anne

Anne’s been running for so long that when two paths diverge in the woods, not only she does she know to go for the one with the most foreboding weeds, swarms of bees and steep, rocky climbs, but she convinces everyone else to come along. Then, before people are done cursing and nursing insect bites, bloody knees and poison oak outbreaks, she’ll again run — away. She eschews a lot of the newfangled devices that are supposed to make you a better runner because she believes it’s what you put into your body, not on it, that really matters. (Footwear is the exception.) That includes proper nourishment of the mind, which we all know is what really makes the difference on the road…and the trail…and the track. At some point she started to realize that not everyone has run into an Alaskan grizzly bear, been pegged by police as a robber, lost her shorts in a major marathon, rubbed elbows with Olympians, mistaken movie stars for beach bums and watched a wildfire consume her suburb - yes, while she was on a long run. Whether it’s these unique situations, or the universal ones every recreational runner encounters, after she lives it, she loves nothing better than to write about it at Run DMZ.

  1. Blaine Moore (Run to Win) on July 12th at 8:48 am

    I wrote about the IAAF allowing him to compete last month at Run to Win, and there has been a lot of great discussion about whether he should be allowed to or not.

  2. Christopher Kelsall on July 12th at 4:20 pm

    Whether Pistorius races well in able bodied events or not, this very subject should explode outward and become a hotly contentious issue amongst three parties, able bodied athletes, non able bodied athletes and governing bodies of sport; the latter whom undoubtedly can throw many pepples into the preverbial lubricant, at the drop of a Pamela Anderson calendar.

    I can see, should he beat top level runners in the 400m WITH his prosthetic on, there will be enhanced finger wagging about performance enhancing, ah….enhancements.

    How does an impartial and independent arbitrator-like-body assume the role and make a recomendation that his prosthetic does or does not provide a time benefit over and above regular bodied runners?

    Probably leg turnover vs stride length vs gross time total.

    If he wins, I hope some of the 400m runners don’t have to cut their leg off to compete. Then WADA will have to change it’s acronym from WADA ‘World Anti Doping Agency’ to WADAPEA ‘World Anti Doping AND Prosthetic Enhancement Agency’.

    Wadapea sounds a little like onomatopoeia, which here means words used that are describing sounds like ‘clack…clack…clack’ of the prosthetic foot, striking pavement.

    Or phlisk…phlisk…phlisk the sounds of legaleze being shuffled, forever, which suspiciously sound like the shuffling of feet.

  3. Jeanne on July 13th at 3:33 pm

    i think this guy is amazing. and if any other runners want to chop off their legs, try his prosthetics, and then race–and win–i say, go for it!

  4. jeff on July 15th at 7:03 pm

    It is a tribute to the human spirit to see all that he has done.The question as to whether he should be able to compete against able bodied runners is now moot,at least for now.He finished last in his qualifying run.Able bodied or not,when you finish last you don’t qualify.The further disqualification for running out of his lane is also a disqualification for every runner,able bodied or not.I know that he is very upset but it is not any action or lack of action by any organization that has eliminated him,it was his own poor showing.He has had to work infinitly harder than any other runner so his disappointment is that much greater,but he should take his loss as all other athletes do and learn from it.Instead of pointing fingers at anyone for what may or may not have been said,he should show the equally important trait of taking his loss with the dignity that other world class athletes are expected to do.Sour grapes and poor sportsmanship does nothing to cahnge the outcome and may hinder his hopes of getting more chances to compete at this level.

    I would say to him:Hold your head up,take your loss like a man,learn from it and try to improve yourself.Nobody is going to hand you anything so you are going to have to do it the hard way,just as every other athlete that has suffered a setback in their career,work harder to make yourself better and to be ready for the next opportunity.Don’t give up on yourself but don’t blame others for your own performance.

  5. Anne on July 15th at 8:17 pm

    Thanks for the update, Jeff. And for the perspective.