South African runner Oscar Pistorius, known as "Blade Runner" was selected to run the individual 400 meters and the 4x400 relay at the London Olympics on Wednesday, making him the first double amputee to compete at any games.
AP - Oscar Pistorius was selected Wednesday to run in both the individual 400 meters and the 4x400 relay at the London Olympics, clearing the way for him to become the first amputee track athlete to compete at any games.
In a surprise last-minute decision, South Africa’s Olympic committee and national track federation said the double amputee can run in his individual event as well as the relay even though he did not meet the country’s qualifying criteria in the 400.
The Olympic committee earlier announced that Pistorius, who runs on carbon fiber blades, had been picked only for the relay.
“Today is truly one of the proudest days of my life,” Pistorius said. “To have been selected to represent Team South Africa at the London 2012 Olympic Games in the individual 400m and the 4x400m relay is a real honor and I am so pleased that years of hard work, determination and sacrifice have all come together.”
Olympic committee chief executive Tubby Reddy told The Associated Press that South Africa’s track body asked for permission to allow Pistorius to run the 400, even though he missed the final qualifying time he needed at last week’s African championships in his last qualifying race.
Reddy said his South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee agreed to clear Pistorius for the individual one-lap race as well.
“Since he’s going to be there (in London), our decision is he can run both,” Reddy told AP. “There’s no reason why he can’t.”
The 25-year-old Pistorius, known as the “Blade Runner” will now likely be as big a draw at the Olympics as sprinting sensation Usain Bolt or swimming great Michael Phelps.
The multiple Paralympic champion, who had both his legs amputated below the knee when he was 11 months old, will realize a dream to compete at the Olympics and the Paralympics in the same year and will get a chance at his career goal, which is to make the 400 final at the games.
“I have a phenomenal team behind me who have helped get me here and I, along with them, will now put everything we can into the final few weeks of preparations before the Olympic Games, where I am aiming to race well, work well through the rounds, post good times and maybe even a personal best time on the biggest stage of them all,” he said.
Pistorius made history last year by qualifying for the world championships in Daegu, South Korea, where he made the semifinals of the individual race and won silver with South Africa in the 4x400 as the first amputee competing at the worlds.
However, South Africa’s decision to leave him out of the relay final caused controversy.
In London, Pistorius will run both events after setting a South African season-leading 45.20 in a meet in his home city of Pretoria in March.
He was selected alongside Willem de Beer, Ofentse Mogawane and Shaun de Jager for the 4x400 and also will be South Africa’s only entry in the men’s 400. He missed out by less than a quarter of a second at his final qualifying race at the African championships.
Pistorius won a silver medal at the Africans but was 0.22 seconds off the second Olympic qualifying time he needed under the country’s strict criteria. But that didn’t matter in the end.
SASCOC said all the athletes - including Pistorius - were picked on merit.
“As I have said many times before, we are not taking passengers to London,” SASCOC President Gideon Sam said.