Monday 11 December 2017

'Blade Runner' blazes a trail for disabled athletes

Ian Chadband

A momentous event in sporting endeavour, perhaps even in human endeavour, took place in front of 10,000 enthralled spectators at the Daegu Stadium in Korea this week. A man who had his lower legs amputated as a baby ran against some of the best 400-metre sprinters in the World Championships, athletics' greatest event. And beat most of them.

Oscar Pistorius, a 24-year-old athlete from Johannesburg known as Blade Runner, modestly shrugged that he was just another runner, just the same as thousands of others around the world, just like those hard-working sprinters alongside him who had sacrificed so much to reach their sport's pinnacle.

Except that it did not wash. Korean fans hung over the side of the track just to get close to the man running on the prosthetic limbs, the first double amputee to compete in the championships, because they could recognise this was an extraordinary breakthrough moment in sport. They looked and were amazed. "We love you Oscar!" came the chants, because they could hardly conceive that this figure, balanced seemingly precariously on his carbon-fibre blades, could possibly compete with able-bodied runners on level terms.

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