They call him “Blade Runner,” and he is considered superhuman by many.
South African runner, Oscar Pistorius, became famous during the 2012 Olympic Games in London by being the first double-amputee to qualify for an Olympic event in the history of the games. In fact, Pistorius is only one of ten Paralympic athletes to participate in the games since 1980.
It most certainly wasn’t easy. Pistorius, who runs on carbon fiber “blades” in place of his amputated legs, had to prove to Olympic officials that his prosthetics did not grant him an unfair advantage against other able-bodied sprinters; a battle he continued against critics long after he officially qualified for the London Olympics.
And this “Blade Runner” seemed to have a point. It takes incredible strength of body as well as character for a person with amputated legs to learn to walk again—to return to a level of normalcy—let alone sprint a 200 meter race in 21 seconds. Pistorius has done both.
It did not matter, in the end, that Pistorius failed to qualify for the finals in the men’s 400 meter sprint or that his team finished second-to-last in the finals of the 4×400 meter relay (with him running anchor). His tale had transcended above the din of detractors into something inspirational.
Yet less than a month after the closing ceremonies, the sprinter from the Republic of South Africa finds himself on the other side of the argument.
Earlier this month, Pistorius finished second in the men’s 200 meter sprint at the 2012 Paralympic games against fellow double-amputee, Alan Oliveira. However, rather than being happy for the Brazilian, being satisfied with his silver medal (alongside two other golds he took home for South Africa), or even being simply being humble in defeat, the “Blade Runner” did something rather unexpected.
Pistorius complained that his competitor’s “blades” gave him an unfair advantage.
According to the BBC, Pistorius did not even wait until competitors had left the track before protesting to International Paralympic Committee officials that Oliveira’s ‘blades’ were too long and that others just couldn’t compete with the Brazilian’s stride length.
This is, of course, ignoring the fact that Oliveira’s ‘blades’ have passed the stringent regulations restricting dimensions of competitor’s prosthetics. In fact, Oliveira could legally run on blades .04 meters longer than those he currently competes with according to The Telegraph.
Even more to the point, if Pistorius did truly believe this was the case, he too could use longer blades. The Telegraph reports that Pistorius’s maximum legal height which he can race at is 1.93 meters—considerably taller than his current racing height of 1.84 meters—discrediting his claims even further.
But doing that would contradict the very point Pistorius has fought so hard to prove; the athlete is the true factor in athletics, not equipment or prosthetics. By protesting in the first place, Pistorius has already severely damaged his position and his image.
Pistorius’ claims of foul play are not without precedent. Even in the Paralympic games, there have been several cases of cheating. A 2008 article by The Telegraph noted several athletes were pulled from both the Sydney and Beijing Paralympics for “boosting.”
Yet by becoming a crossover athlete and desiring to be counted among athletes solely judged by their abilities, Pistorius has rendered his complaints against Oliveira moot and, sadly, very ironic.
The irony seems lost on “Blade Runner,” however, as Pistorius has apologized for the timing of his comments, but refuses to retract them. The South African seems completely oblivious to the fact that by arguing that his opponent’s prosthetics affected the outcome of a race, he has shined an unkind spotlight on himself as well.
Do not mistake that Pistorius’s story contains inspiration and showcases an almost superhuman example of overcoming adversity. However, the sprinter’s recent petty actions have revealed that he is indeed very much human.