No Legs? Not a problem
Published: Thursday, January 17, 2008
Updated: Tuesday, January 18, 2011 15:01
I'm no expert in biomechanics, but common sense tells me that a man with no legs is at a clear disadvantage in a footrace.
Double-amputee sprinter Oscar Pistorius was born without fibulas - the long, thin outer bone between the knee and ankle. When he was 11 months old, his legs were amputated halfway between his knees and ankles.
Pistorius, the 21-year-old South African native, has been dubbed the "blade runner," referring to his arched, carbon fiber prosthetics that allow him to run.
"Cheetahs," as they are called, are J-shaped blades that have recently placed him in the international spotlight. Criticism of the technical characteristics of the prosthetics has led to speculation that he actually has an unfair advantage over able-bodied competitors.
Pistorius began running in 2003 to rehab a rugby injury, and nine months later won the 200 meters at the 2004 Paralympic Games in Athens. Since then, he has gone on to break double-amputee world records at the 100-, 200- and 400-meter distances.
After achieving success in the Paralympic field, Pistorius took his running to the next level and placed second in the 400 meters at the South African national championships last year against able-bodied runners. Since that time, it has been his goal to compete in the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
However, The International Association of Athletics Federations ruled Monday that his racing blades give him a clear advantage.
Wait. I'm sorry. Give him an advantage?
I was under the impression that not having limbs made life more difficult, and found athletic achievements by those without legs or arms even more incredible. Apparently I was wrong.
The IAAF said that Pistorius' curved blades were a technical aid and in violation of the rules.
The ruling committee cited research by a German professor who, after conducting tests on the prosthetic limbs, said they give an unfair advantage. He found that Pistorius was able to run the same speed as able-bodied runners while expending a quarter less energy.
In any case, Pistorius' best 400 meter time of 46.56 would be a full 2.5 seconds behind the 2004 Olympic gold time, and almost 3.4 seconds behind Michael Johnson's world record time.
I'm pretty sure that for the past 21 years, Pistorius has had to work harder. He didn't just put his blades on one day and run fast. He works just as hard as able-bodied competitors, if not harder.
I say let the man compete. If nothing else, it gives the entire world someone to root for.