Oscar Pistorius is a national hero in South Africa. He is on the cover of almost every magazine and grabs the headlines quicker than a politician in the States. Last week the athlete was added to the 400m South African Olympic team. This is all fine and dandy, but what sets Oscar Pistorius apart from other athletes?
Oscar is a double leg amputee. He was born with congenital absence of the fibula in both legs on the 22nd of November, 1986. His legs were amputated when he was only 11 months old. This did not hold Oscar back and he became a star athlete in his high school days. He competed in rugby, water polo, tennis and took part in Olympic club wrestling. Now, before you fall on your knees and start singing “He’s Got the Whole Wide World in His Hands” like a drunken congregation member at a happy church, Oscar has experienced quite some controversy.
One side of the argument states that Oscar has an advantage over the other non-disabled athletes who partake in the events. He has been dubbed as the “Blade Runner” by both South African and international media because of his carbon-fiber devices that allow him to run at top speeds. The J-shaped blades are called “Cheetah Flex-Foot” and they allow Oscar to be one of the fastest double leg amputee athletes in the world. He has also been referred to as “the fastest man on no legs”.
Oscar has won several gold and silver medals for his performances in the Paralympics, but was disqualified from the Beijing Summer Olympics in 2008. Oscar achieved his personal best time of 46.5 seconds in Lucerne, Switzerland in the qualifying rounds for the Beijing Olympics, but it was still short of the Olympic qualification time of 45.55 seconds.
It was announced last week by SASCOC (South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee) that Oscar will be included in the 2012 London Olympics alongside the able-bodied athletes, running the 400m and the 4 x 400m relay races. He is the first double amputee runner to ever compete in the Olympics.
Why does this cause so much controversy?
Many of the other able-bodied athletes are complaining that Oscar has an unfair advantage with his prosthetic legs. They believe his J-shaped legs give him an advantage over runners with natural ankles and feet. He does not experience the sudden impact and pressure on his legs as the other runners do, which in turn gives him more stamina and more power to compete. Tests were done at a University in Cologne and it was deduced that Pistorius used 25 percent less energy when competing against natural leg runners. Oscar disputed this and after a lengthy tribunal, it was ruled that the scientist did not take all variables into account and that Oscar does not have any advantage over other able-bodied athletes. The American scientists hired by Oscar also deduced that the Cologne scientist did not take into consideration the disadvantages that Oscar suffers at the beginning phase of the race.
The fact of the matter is, Oscar still had to compete alongside natural athletes and still had to achieve an appropriate qualifying time for the London Olympic Games. He wasn’t thrust into the Olympics so that some fat man in an office that smells of cat urine could buy his daughter a new stripper pole.
All this aside, we cannot stop but wonder what will happen if Oscar gets to London after a long flight from Johannesburg and it is revealed that his legs were in fact lost on the plane and were being used by a tribe in Kenya to boil their clothes. Hey, don’t forget your legs Oscar, losing them is kind of like a supermodel losing her face from too much Botox injections, like Janice Dickinson and the newborn babies on her mouth.
Oscar Pistorius might be an inspiration to a country that has battled its’ own demons for many years, but to the rest of the world, Oscar is a tad bit like that kid in algebra class who cheated on his test by being skew-eyed. He couldn’t help but look at the answers.
Because of Oscar’s disability he is allowed to use technology that none of the other competitors he faces are entitled to use. These competitors say that regardless of Oscar’s amputations he should not be allowed to compete using tools that provide any advantage whatsoever. The argument is that if other competitors were allowed to use special attachments they might be able to run even faster than they do now.
Celeb Dirty Laundry is running a poll to see what you think. So fill out the poll and and sound out in the comments below! Don’t forget to tune in on July 27th for the Opening Ceremonies, for the first time streaming on NBCOlympics.com