‘Blade Runner’ awaits Olympic debutAzad Majumder . London
South Africa’s Oscar Pistorius is all set to become the first double amputee in an Olympic when he makes his debut in athletics on Saturday.
Pistorius has been in the headlines since he qualified 400m individual competition and 4x400 relay team.
He has since been a subject of worldwide debate with many suggesting that his carbon fibre blades give him some unfair advantage over able-bodied athletes, although it could not be proved scientifically.
Pistorius spoke to the media before his event at the London Olympics main press centre on Wednesday. Here are excerpts:
Former Olympic 400m champion Michael Johnson commented that your prosthetic leg may give you an advantage over able-bodied athlete. What is your comment about it?
Oscar Pistorius: Any improvements since I’ve started haven’t been from any aid or any changes made technically. They’ve been from hard training and other sacrifices.
What I believe in is the fairness of sport and at the moment the prosthetic leg we are using is deemed to be not providing an advantage. I’m pretty happy using that.
If it was such an amazing piece of equipment that’s been around for 14 years then how come thousands of other Paralympic athletes aren’t breaking world records and challenging even a 45, 48 or 49-second 400m.
What do you want to achieve at London 2012?
Oscar Pistorius: If I can place better in the semifinal I would be happy. I think my lack of experience showed a bit at the world championships last year. I didn’t run the race. I wanted to run in the semifinal so I hope to do better here.
Will it be your last Olympic Game?
Oscar Pistorius: The goal is Rio. I’m super-excited for that. I should be at my peak then. Sprinters usually peak between 27 and 29 and Ill be 29 then. I may have a receding hairline already but I think in Rio, we will have a lot of fun.
Is it your biggest achievement being able to participate in the London 2012 Olympic Games?
Oscar Pistorius: Yes, being here is one of the biggest achievements in my career. I am proud of representing my country in the Olympics. Once you are here, however, the pressure will grow up on you and want to perform well. I would like to put in a good performance too.
Do you consider yourself as an Olympian or Paralympian?
Oscar Pistorius: Once I am in the Olympics, I consider myself an Olympian. And once I am in the Paralympics, I consider myself a Paralympian. I remember the excitement I had when I was at the Beijing Paralympic Games. I was super-excited. I won three Paralympic gold medals there and I can say Beijing was the highlight of my career.
How do you take negative comments about you?
Oscar Pistorius: If I have to listen to the 5 per cent of negativity, I wouldn’t be here. I have to rely on the 95 per cent of the support I get from the public. People may think I just turn up at races and run. No, it is not like that. The 400m is a very difficult competition. In order to cover that distance, I still have to work hard and train hard.
Are you going to run in the final of the 4x400m relay?
Oscar Pistorius: In 2011, I was the quickest athlete in the country (RSA) and I ran one of the my best 400m races in the relay during the heats at the world championships (2011) but they decided to exclude me from the final. I never understood that decision and I will never understand it. Somebody has to be accountable for that. But this is not the time to talk about it. I don’t know which leg I am going to run but I am ready to run whichever leg they will ask me to run.
Do you enjoy the nickname Blade Runner?
Oscar Pistorius: It is not the title I chose but I don’t mind it (laughs).
Being an Olympian, will it be sinking in your mind?
Oscar Pistorius: I think it a kind of hits you when you’re standing on the starting blocks. I remember being in Athens and Beijing (at the 2004 and 2008 Paralympic Games) and for me, that’s when it really dawned on me that I was there in the competition.
What was your reaction when IAAF had decided in 2007 you could not compete against able-bodied athletes?
Oscar Pistorius: We were quite taken aback because the top Paralympics athletes have been using the same leg as I have since 1996 and there was never an athlete to run close to the times that I was running in the 400m. I don’t even think there was an athlete to break 50 seconds in the 400m. So if these legs are able to provide such an advantage then how come everybody else isn’t running the same times?
How is your relationship with the IAAF going on since the Court of Arbitration ruled in 2008 that you could compete against able-bodied athletes?
Since then, I have actually had a phenomenal relationship with the IAAF. We’ve come a long way since 2007 and I’ve got a lot of respect for them.
Can you run 400 metres a time quicker than 45 seconds?
Oscar Pistorius: I would love to. I’m in a good shape. I feel very strong. I’ve had a good season. I struggled a little bit at the beginning of the season to get into rhythm but I’ve run some really good races. I’m really hoping to at least make the semifinal and if I can run a personal best, it would make me unbelievably happy.
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