Athletic legacy: the first amputee to win able-bodied track medal

Pistorius lived up to his nickname ‘Blade Runner’

It was the Olympic Games that first brought the 27-year-old double amputee, Oscar Pistorius, into the wider public consciousness following Athens in 2004, where he was 200-metre (T44) Paralympic champion (Olympics and Paralympics are separate competitions).

Shortly after that Pistorius declared his intention to run against able bodied athletes and he set his sights on Beijing 2008.

His quest became tortuous as he faced persistent objections from the athletics governing body (IAAF) and charges that his carbon fibre Flex-foot Cheetah limbs gave him an unfair advantage.

That was one legal dispute he finally won and he was selected by South Africa to run in the 2011 World Athletics Championships, becoming the first amputee to win an able bodied track medal. There he competed in the team relay and 400-metres, where he reached the semi-final.


‘Blade Runner’

Pistorius lived up to his nickname “Blade Runner – the fastest man on no legs” and earned many lucrative sponsorship contracts. He duly qualified for London 2012 and along with 100-metre champion Usain Bolt, was the highest profile athlete at the Games as well as the poster boy for redefining limits for people with disability.

In London’s Olympic Stadium Pistorius became the first amputee to run in an Olympic Games. He took second place in the first heat, finishing in 45.44 seconds to advance to the semi-final, where he finished eighth.

However, during the Paralympic Games in London the first flashes of temper surfaced when he lost the gold to Brazilian Alan Oliveira in the 200 metres (T44) and complained to track-side cameras about the length of his competitor's blades.

Johnny Watterson

Johnny Watterson

Johnny Watterson is a sports writer with The Irish Times