The Blade Runner: South Africa’s Amazing Oscar Pistorius Wins Olympics Appeal
Oscar Pistorius, the double-amputee South African sprinter, will be allowed to compete for a place on South Africa’s Olympic team after an international sports regulatory body ruled today that his carbon-fiber prosthetic limbs do not give him an advantage over other runners. The Swiss-based Court of Arbitration for Sport, which has the final say over legal issues in sports, has overturned an earlier ruling against Pistorius, which had been made in January by the International Association of Athletics Federations. The IAAF had declared Pistorius ineligible for able-bodied competition, despite originally clearing him to compete last spring, pending further investigation. Pistorius will be allowed to resume his efforts immediately. The Court of Arbitration for Sport was established in 1984 to resolve disputes involving international sports organizations and athletes.
In an interview with Bloomberg News, Dick Traum, who is the head of a group of disabled endurance runners named the Achilles Track Club, claimed that the ruling marks a major advance in the promise for athletes with disabilities of being able to compete against athletes without them. “It is absolutely the most exciting thing that has ever happened in terms of the way the sport has turned,” Traum said. “Over the past generation the way people look at amputees has changed dramatically. People like this man are admired instead of ushered to one side.”
The earlier IAAF ruling against Pistorius had concluded that his blade-like “Cheetah” running prosthetics amounted to a technical device that gave him a demonstrable mechanical advantage, because they worked more efficiently than the human ankle and allowed the user to consume less energy than an able-bodied athlete running at the same speed. However, upon reviewing arguments contained in the appeal filed by Pistorius, the Swiss Court of Arbitration said that it was not convinced that the device gave Pistorius an overall “metabolic advantage” and ruled that he should be allowed to compete for the 2008 Beijing games. The new ruling came as a a very happy surprise for the 21-year-old South African, who had already shifted his vision to competing in the 2012 Olympic games in London.
Oscar Pistorius, who is a sports celebrity in South Africa where he is designated “The Blade Runner”, commented that the ruling by one of sport’s highest bodies verified the arguments that his defense team had assembled with the help of a group of Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers. Although the earlier IAAF decision had focused upon the efficiency of the blades, Pistorius’s defense team argued in its appeal that, overall, he had no advantage over runners with both of their legs.
“I have been struggling to hide my smile for the last half an hour,” Pistorius said in an interview in Milan. “The truth has come out. We have the opportunity once again to chase my dream of participating in an Olympics.” Pistorius would not be the first athlete with a disability to earn an Olympic spot. Neroli Fairhall, an archer from New Zealand, competed in the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic games from a wheelchair, and runner Marla Runyan, who is legally blind, was a member of the 2000 U.S. Olympic team in Sydney, Australia.
However, both Pistorius’s disability and the adaptive prosthetic equipment that he uses are uniquely connected to his specific athletic sport. Using the blades, Pistorius has broken Paralympic records in the 100, 200 and 400 meter events. Pistorius also ran in som
e able-bodied competition last spring, running in a race at The Golden Gala meet in Rome and then at a Grand Prix meet in Sheffield, England. While he did not meet the Olympic qualifying times for those races, last year Pistorius finished second in the 400 meter event at the 2007 South African National Championships. Many sports observers think that Oscar Pistorius now has a good chance to earn an invitation to join the South African Olympic 4×400 meter relay team, which will take a squad of six sprinters to Beijing.
The Blade Runner: South Africa’s Amazing Oscar Pistorius
The Blade Runner: Oscar Pistorius Runs
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