South Africa’s Oscar Pistorius makes history as the first double amputee to compete in the Olympics
“You’re not disabled by the disabilities you have, you are able by the abilities you have.”
~ Oscar Pistorius
It’s a motto that Oscar Pistorius lives by, and one that has helped catapult him into the history books. When the South African runner reached the men’s 400-meter semifinals Monday, he became the first double amputee ever to compete at the Olympics.
A triumph for any athlete, the Olympics are especially sweet for 25-year-old Pistorius, whose road to the Games has been anything but smooth. Born with fibular hemimelia, a congenital absence of the fibula, his legs were amputated below the knee when he was just an infant.
The youngster was undaunted, and participated in rugby, water polo, tennis, and wrestling as a teen. And on New Year’s Day 2004, while rehabilitating from a serious knee injury sustained during rugby, he discovered running – and never looked back.
Pistorius exploded onto the running scene; in his first competitive race, he shattered the Paralympic world record time by nearly half a second. Later that year, he sprinted to his first two medals in the 2004 Athens Paralympic Games.
As he continued to break records and win medals (18 golds) on the Paralympic circuit, Pistorius yearned to prove himself on a broader scale, running against able-bodied athletes. He qualified for the 2008 Games in Beijing, but the track’s governing body barred him from competition, stating that his artificial limbs, carbon fiber prosthetic blades by Össur, gave him an unfair advantage over able-bodied runners.
That decision was ultimately struck down, and Pistorius continued to fly around the track, securing a spot not only on the South African Olympic team, but also in the hearts of millions watching. As the young sprinter crossed the finish line in eighth place Monday night, 80,000 spectators roared – and Pistorius smiled.
After the race, first-place finisher Kirani James of Grenada honored Pistorius by exchanging name bibs, reminding us that some victories transcend medals.
Pistorius is slated to compete in the men’s 4 x 400-meter relay later this week.
Angel MedFlight commends Oscar Pistorius and the thousands of other Olympians and Paralympians, whose indomitable spirits and perseverance inspire us.