'Blade Runner' Misses Final, But Still Makes History

      August 30, 2011 09:59

      Oscar Pistorius reacts after placing last in a men's 400 m semifinal at the World Athletics Championships in Daegu on Monday. /AP-Yonhap

      "Blade Runner" Oscar Pistorius failed to make the final of the men's 400 m in Daegu on Monday but will still be remembered for taking on able-bodied athletes at the Athletics World Championships on his two carbon-fiber prostheses.

      The South African sprinter, who had both his legs amputated below the knees when he was 11 months old due to a crippling congenital disease, was hoping to make another piece of history at Daegu Stadium, but advancing to Tuesday's final was always a long shot at best.

      Just before the semifinal, Pistorius was checking the starting blocks in lane seven and warming up by running stretches of 40 to 50 meters. After the starting gun sounded he stayed in the hunt for the first 200 m before dropping back to finish last of the group in a time of 46.19 seconds, over one second behind his personal best.

      The crowd, clearly moved by his story, showed their admiration with a huge round of applause as he bowed out of the competition. Pistorius' story of overcoming his innate disability, and beating the IAAF by persuading the Court of Arbitration for Sport to overturn its ban on him running against able-bodied athletes, has won him many fans.

      Pistorius, who was born without fibula, learned to walk, ride roller skates, climb trees and even play water polo and rugby with the aid of his artificial prostheses. He discovered the world of sprinting during a period of rehabilitation following a rugby injury, and in just one year, had won the 200 m at the 2004 Athens Paralympics. His artificial legs for sprinters -- called "Flex-Foot Cheetahs" -- have effectively become a symbol of his struggle against the odds.  

      Pistorius and blind Irish sprinter Jason Smith came to Daegu to prove that physical handicaps can be overcome at the highest level of sport. Smith failed to make it past the preliminaries of the men's 100 m, while Pistorius earned one of 24 spots in the 400 m semis by placing 14th with a time of 45.39 seconds thanks to his explosive final spurt.

      He will have his last race in Daegu, in the men's 4x400 m relay, at 12:10 p.m. on Friday.

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