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By John Hutchinson, Sports Reporter
Thursday, September 29, 2011
It is a debate which has divided public opinion across the world - whether or not double amputee Oscar Pistorius should compete in the Olympic Games.
The South African, known as Blade Runner because he runs with carbon fibre prosthetic running blades, qualified for the World Championships by smashing his 400 metres personal best in Lignano, Italy with 45.07 seconds - also inside the 2012 London Olympics qualifying mark.
In Daegu, Pistorius reached the semi-finals of the 400m and was part of the South African 4x400m relay squad who secured a silver medal.
He raced for his country in the relay semi-final, however was not selected for the final but still collected a medal.
Whether he will compete in the Olympics depends on the performance of his fellow countrymen and if he can set a qualifying time another two times within the next year.
London 2012 chairman Sebastian Coe has already said if he does make the grade and is selected by South Africa then he will be welcomed.
He said: “He is eligible and I am guessing he will want to compete. We will welcome him.”
Pistorius was born without fibulae - lower leg bones - which led to the decision to amputate both legs below the knee when he was just 11 months old.
He first competed in the Paralympic Games in Athens in 2004, where he won gold in the 200m and bronze in the 100m.
Now 24, Pistorius had sought for years to compete in the World Championships and Olympics.
The International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF) had argued that his “cheetah” legs gave him an extra edge against able-bodied runners.
But the ban was overturned by the Court of Arbitration (CAS) in 2008, allowing Pistorius to compete against able-bodied athletes.
After the CAS decision, however, he failed to record a time inside the Olympic qualifying mark and missed the Beijing Games.
When he ran the London 2012 qualifying time last month, he said “it was a dream race”.
But despite the CAS assurance that his blades do not give him an advantage, some still argue that it is not “like against like”.
And with advances in technology which may improve his blades over years to come, there is scepticism that it could become be increasingly difficult to tell how much of the performance comes from his physiological capability and how much from the technology.
Former 400m runner Roger Black argued: “Nobody knows whether his blades are an advantage or not. They have not been around long enough. We don’t know if Oscar is an amazing athlete, or a very good athlete with an advantage.
“Emotionally, I would love to see him race but, if I had to go one way or the other, I would say he shouldn’t be able to race because we are not seeing like against like.”
If Pistorius makes it to the Olympics next year, he will not be the first athlete to compete in both the Paralympic and Olympic Games.
His compatriot Natalie du Toit, a single amputee swimmer, and Natalia Partyka, a Polish table tennis player who was born with one arm ending just below her elbow, competed at both events in Beijing.
And with increased belief in what Paralympians can achieve, he is likely not to be the last.