by Adekanmbi Adedotun
Just to have got there was extraordinary, after a five-year fight for the right to compete on equal terms at the highest level. The Blade Runner, as he is known, was also becoming the first double amputee to compete in the Olympics at all.
The first time I saw him, lining up in lane five for the first heat of the 400 metres race of the 2012 London Olympics, the man in the wraparound shades and the yellow and green running kit of South Africa, looked like any other powerfully built competitor – from the knee upwards. Below the knee however,was something never seen before on the tracks of a global professional sprinting competition. The 25-year-old male was wearing a pair of “Carbon fibre prosthetic” legs called Cheetahs, shaped to curve like the hind legs of the fastest animal on land. Wondering in utmost amazement, I stayed tuned to watch what what was definitely going to be the talking point between myself and my friends the next day… The rest, they say is History.
With such a deformity in the world of Track events, one would think that “The Blade Runner” would have an “unfair disadvantage” competing with able-bodied men but Pistorius’ artificial legs have been a source of controversy throughout much of his athletic career. Authorities were opined to believe that his Prosthetic legs gave him a “Fair advantage”. However, along the way, Pistorius who has been labelled the “fastest man on no legs,” captured three gold medals at the 2011 IPC Athletic World Championships. Two more titles followed, in the 400-meter and 100-meter, at the BT Paralympics World Cup.
Pistorius’ foremost goal was to feature at the Olympics in 2012. Although he was eventually eliminated in the semifinal round, he secured his place in history by becoming the first amputee athlete to compete in the Olympics. To mark the occasion, a delighted and enthusiastic Pistorius flew out his 89-year-old grandmother to watch him race. “It’s just an unbelievable experience,” Pistorius was quoted as saying shortly after his first Olympic race. “I found myself smiling on the starting blocks, which is very rare.” He said amidst beams of smiles.
Fast track to the future, The “Blade Runner” is on a series of trials having made headlines of a different kind in February 2013, after his girlfriend, famous South African model Reeva Steenkamp, was found dead at his home in Pretoria, South Africa. Our once beloved “Hero” became a “Villian” , Pistorius was soon named a suspect in the case. He went on to state that he had mistaken his girlfriend for an intruder and shot her through a locked bathroom door at his house. Consequently, Pistorious was charged with premeditated murder. The world awaits the decision of the jury on the case. Was it – “Intentional causes” or a case of “Mistaken Identity”?
Truth be told, we may never know the true story on what went down behind the scenes, with Oscar and Reeva, but what remains fact is, Oscar Pistorius, “The Blade Runner”, will always be a beacon of hope.