Beijing Olympics

Andy Wong/AP
Oscar Pistorius, right, crosses the finish
line during the
Beijing Paralympic
Games at the
National Stadium.

Controversial Amputee Oscar Pistorius Wins Gold at Paralympics

September 10, 2008 03:28 PM
by Josh Katz
Pistorius, the double amputee who has battled accusations before the Olympic trials that his prosthetic legs are an advantage, won the 100m sprint in the Paralympics.

Pistorius Wins Gold

By taking gold in the 100m sprint, Pistorius, known as the “Blade Runner” because of the blade-like design of the prosthetic legs he uses for running, has won his most difficult of the three events he will compete in at the 2008 Paralympic Games in Beijing. The South African finished the race in 11.17 seconds, followed by Jerome Singleton (11.20) and Brian Frasure (11.50) of the United States.

Marlon Shirley, a single amputee from the United States who won the event in Athens, fell during the race. It was the first time Pistorius met Shirley on the track since 2004, when Shirley pointed to the potential advantage the South African’s prosthetic legs provided, saying Pistorius was “running tall,” according to the Times of London.

It had rained the night before yesterday’s race, and the wet conditions are generally a disadvantage for Pistorius because of his two prosthetics, according to South African newspaper the Independent. “That was probably the worst start I’ve ever had,” Pistorius said. “I just thought to myself that the first 30m were terrible and I’d better get it right in the final 70m.”

Pistorius is favored to also win gold in the 200m and 400m events.

The 21-year-old sprinter had won a court decision in May making him eligible to compete in last month’s Beijing Olympics, but he fell short of the qualifying time necessary to compete at the Games. Instead, he is participating in the Paralympics once again.

But he does have his sights set on qualifying for the London Olympic Games: “I’m looking forward to London 2012,” the Associated Press quotes him as saying.

Background: Pistorius Wins Olympic Eligibility

In May, an international court ruled that Pistorius was eligible to compete in the August Olympics.

“The Fastest Man on No Legs,” as he calls himself, successfully challenged claims that his prosthetic legs give him an unfair advantage over able-bodied competitors.

The situation highlighted the increasingly murky ethics in the role of technology in athletics. At a time when it’s legal for baseball players to wear high-powered contacts to improve their vision, swimmers to use buoyant, water-repelling swimsuits, and endurance athletes to sleep in hyperbaric chambers to up their red blood cell counts, the fairness of technological aids has become a prominent question in sports.

Previously, the International Association of Athletics Federation had decided that Pistorius’s high-tech legs offered him an unfair advantage over sprinters with natural legs, making him ineligible for Olympic competition.

Pistorius called the decision a form of discrimination, and cited the admittance of transgender athletes into the 2004 Olympics as an argument for his case.

Key Player: Oscar Pistorius

Related Topics: Technology and athletics

Athletic enhancements
Advances in prosthetics

Reference: Össur prosthetics, IAAF, 2008 Paralympics


Most Recent Beyond The Headlines