Fastest On No Legs : Oscar Pistorius

Disabled athlete seconds away from his dream
Sheena Adams
January 19 2007 at 07:40AM

One, two, three seconds is all Paralympic athletics star Oscar Pistorius needs to fully live up to his tag of “the fastest thing on no legs”.

To achieve yet another ambitious goal in his sparkling athletics career, the double amputee will have to shave three seconds off the 47,3-second world record he achieved in the 400m Paralympic event.

This will bring him one step closer to qualifying for the able-bodied Olympics in Beijing next year. If he succeeds, it would mark him as the only athlete in the world ever to accomplish such a feat.

A confident Pistorius, 20, reckons it’s a goal he can easily accomplish this year - assuming his training schedule with coach Ampie Louw goes according to plan.

‘Let’s have a challenge’
If it doesn’t, Louw has cooked up an ingenious plan B - pitting his pedigree charge against the best in the world in a privately organised exhibition race.

“The guys with the money - the Bransons and so on - will do it, I’m sure. We can invite the guys and say ‘let’s have a challenge’,” Louw said.

Pistorius, meanwhile, has agreed to block from memory all the naysayers who have slammed his ambition as being disloyal to the Paralympic cause, and criticised him for his superior $70 000 (R500 000) carbon-fibre blades from Iceland-based sponsor Ossur.

“If okes want to come up with complaints about me or my blades, it’s their own thing. They’re welcome to it,” the soft-spoken record-breaker said this week.

“I’m not concentrating on that anymore. I’m just going to get on with it. I think that if my training goes according to plan and if that road is straight, I should get to where I want to be.”

Pistorius was born with a congenital condition that left him with no bone below both knees, resulting in amputation at a young age. He started running on the track in 2004.

Almost immediately he started turning heads, running a record-breaking 21,97sec in the 200m at the 2004 Athens Olympics to beat American sprint star Marlon Shirley, a single amputee.

Now he is keenly awaiting new running feet from Ossur, which he hopes will help him chop off some of the necessary seconds. According to Louw, these would sport a lower knee cutout which would make for better movement.All in all, Pistorius said it’s “very lekker” being him at the moment and he doesn’t hesitate to say he is motivated by being the best.

"It’s about the status, to know you are No 1… I want to make sure this year that through my training and competitions I have time for myself.

“I want to make my time at the gym and the track like appointments. But, while it’s nice to know everyone is confident about my abilities, it does add stress at the end of the day.”

Louw said the athlete’s first challenge will be to compete in the provincial championships and then the SA Championships in Durban in March.

Also on the cards for this year is the Paralympic World Cup in Manchester in May, where Pistorius is hoping to beat his world record of 11,16sec in the 100m event.

Pistorius also plans to travel to Baylor University in Texas in June to meet the world’s top 400m coach, Clyde Hart, for some training tips.

While Louw said it was a realistic goal for Pistorius to qualify for the able-bodied 400m event in the Olympics - a time of 45 seconds is needed - he believes Pistorius is capable of even better.

"Right now we are on 47,3sec, so 45sec is still some way off. But he did reach the high 46sec in December.
"Also, if he can run in 45sec, he’s still not in the medals. The 42 and 43sec will be in the medals.

“In the long-run, it’s always good to have goals,” Louw added.

Ultimately, his goal is for Pistorius to run a good 400m some time this year “to tell people he is on his way”.

Alison Burchell of the SA Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc) told The Star on Thursday there was no truth to reports that Pistorius could be eliminated from Paralympic events because of his special carbon-fibre blades.

She added that if the athlete made the 45sec qualifying time, Sascoc and Athletics SA would decide whether to put his name forward as part of the country’s Olympic squad.

This article was originally published on page 6 of The Star on January 19, 2007