Experts say South Africa’s ‘blade runner’ Oscar Pistorius gains advantage from his technology
• Mike Hurst
• From:The Daily Telegraph, Sydney Australia
• July 21, 201112:00AM
Running into trouble: Blade runner Oscar Pistorius has qualified for the able-bodied world championships. Picture: AP Source: AFP
FOUR years after the Court of Arbitration for Sport cleared Oscar Pistorius to compete in able-bodied athletics, South Africa’s “blade runner” yesterday qualified to run the 400m at next month’s world athletics championships in Daegu, South Korea.
A double below-knee amputee almost from birth, Pistorius, 24, ran a personal best of 45.07sec to win in Lignano, Italy. His time betters the stiff IAAF entry mark of 45.25sec, which no Australian has clocked this year.
Pistorius’ time would have won the Australian title in April by about 3m.
So now, with intersex Caster Semenya to defend the women’s 800m title captured two years ago in Berlin, and Pistorius to race in the men’s 400m, the world championships are set to be overwhelmed by South Africa’s controversial causes celebre.
It is not that Pistorius should not be cheered for his courage and persistence, but the scientists whose work convinced CAS judges to support him because he has “no significant advantage” through the technology of his carbon fibre limbs have changed their minds.
Exercise physiology professors Peter Weyand and Matthew Bundle provided the scientific proof which persuaded CAS to clear the Cheetah blades worn by Pistorius.
But they claim to have made their conclusions based on incomplete evidence at the time.
They have since concluded - and published their findings in the Journal of Applied Physiology - that Pistorius’ prosthetics provide a significant advantage. They calculate the artificial limbs take as much as 10 seconds off the 400m time he could have run had he been born with lower legs.
“We are pleased to be able to finally go public with conclusions that the publishing process has required us to keep confidential,” Bundle and Weyand stated. “We recognised that the blades provide a major advantage as soon as we analysed the critical data.”
The scientists have found Pistorius’ blades enable him to reach speed while applying 20 per cent less ground force than an able-bodied sprinter.
He also has a stride rate advantage, turning his levers over “15.7 per cent more rapidly than five of the most recent former world record-holders in the 100m dash”.
They further found that his blades “reduce the muscle forces Pistorius requires for sprinting to less than half of intact-limb levels”.
With the command of his blades he now has, and the speed he can generate with the superb economy of energy, Pistorius could win a 400m medal in Daegu. Trinidad’s Renny Quow won bronze in Berlin in 45.02sec. Pistorius’ 45.07sec ranks him 15th fastest man in the world this year.