Monday, February 18, 2008

World class 400 meter runner with no legs barred from Olympics

A new runner burst on the scene a few years ago. Oscar Pistorius was born without legs but was fitted with prosthetic legs to run. And holy shit, can he run ... like 46.56 in the 400 meters. Not bad for a beginning runner... with no legs.

Oscar is 22, and known as "the Blade Runner." He ran his first major race in 2004. Maybe he has been too successful. After monitoring his track performances using high-definition cameras and analyzing the information, scientists determined that Pistorius enjoyed considerable advantages over athletes without prosthetic limbs. On the strength of these findings, on 1/14/08 the IAAF ruled him ineligible for competitions conducted under its rules, including the 2008 Summer Olympics.

The IAAF amended its competition rules to ban the use of "any technical device that incorporates springs, wheels or any other element that provides a user with an advantage over another athlete not using such a device". It claimed that the amendment was not specifically aimed at Pistorius. (right)

Watch this video of his 400 meter race in Rome. He is in the outside lane and crosses the finish in second place. Watch his acceleration in last 100 meters. It is quite remarkable. I don't know what to think. He goes from last place to second place in the last 70 meters in a tremendous burst of speed.

I seem to remember the NFL record for longest field goal (63 yds) was held soley for 28 years by Tom Dempsey who was born without toes and used an unusual prosthetic shoe on his kicking foot. (The record was tied in 1998 by Jason Elam). As a reaction, the NFL imposed a new rule: "any shoe that is worn by a player with an artificial limb on his kicking leg must have a kicking surface that conforms to that of a normal kicking shoe."

Oscar Pistorius claims new evidence in his case and is fighting the ban. His claim is based on a fellow sprinters performance. SA sprinter, Joseph van der Linde, is more than a second slower over 100m with an artificial leg than he had been before he lost a leg in an accident.

Pistorius has launched an appeal and is setting his sights for the 2012 London Olympics. I say let him compete. He's fast, but there are many faster guys. It's not like he's threatening Michael Johnson's world record of 43.18. But what if he does someday? If he runs any faster, it's not going to help his case!


Anonymous said...


Meantime the ranks of non-enhanced runners keeps dwindling.

Mr. Pistorius should just keep on running and let the Olympics committee (along with the NCAA and all of the rest of the ruling bodies that exist to enrich a few) blather on. Perhaps he does have some "mechanical" advantage--I'd say he must have overcome a lot to learn how to use the tools he has. I just thought of Django Reinhardt--I wonder how they would rule on him?


William said...

Considering this is a sprint race where athletes run exclusively on the balls of their feet, since he has no calf muscles, lower leg starting power/acceleration has to be made up for by other muscles. Quite amazing.

William said...

PS... great analogy with Django. However, great art sometimes comes from those who seem 'impaired' or abnormal to most people. What do they know??!!