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With the 2012 London Olympics just about a fortnight away, all the athletes are training hard - However, none is training with as much passion as Oscar Pistorius, the first disabled runner that has been allowed to compete with able-bodied competitors in the history of the games.
Oscar's path to fame began with a tough choice his parents had to make in 1987. Born with no fibula in either of his legs, they had to decide whether the 11-month old boy should be confined to a wheelchair for his entire life or given the chance to lead a relatively normal life by amputating his lower legs and replacing them with artificial limbs. Fortunately for the now 25-year old South African, they chose the latter and at just 19 months of age, Oscar was walking with his first pair of fiberglass legs.
Perhaps that is why Oscar has never thought of himself as 'disabled'. He grew up playing rugby, water polo and tennis and even, tried his hand at wrestling. In 2004, after suffering from a serious rugby injury, he was introduced to running, a sport he fell in love with immediately. Over the last eight years he has won numerous medals and broken over 27 records. At the 2008 Summer Paralympics, he made history, by becoming the first competitor to win gold medals in the 100m, 200m and 400m track events.
While Oscar was thrilled with his achievements his biggest dream has always been to be the world's fastest 'runner' instead of the 'world's fastest disabled runner'. However, when he expressed his desire to compete with able-bodied sprinters to the 2008 Olympic committee, they turned him down - Not because they thought he couldn't keep up, but because they believed his famous carbon legs, that have earned him the nickname 'Blade Runner', gave him an unfair advantage.
But the athlete persevered and convinced the committee to agree to allow him to participate in the 2012 Games by proving that while his prosthetic legs may give him a slight advantage in certain parts of the sprint like when the track is straight, they are very inefficient at the beginning of the race and in areas where the track curves.
Once the committee agreed, the athlete had another challenge to overcome - Competing against his fellow South African runners to earn himself a spot on the track team. On Wednesday July 4th, his dream was finally realized when the South African track committee announced that Oscar would not only represent his country in the 4 X 400-meter relay, but also, the individual 400 meter race in London. In addition to that, he will also compete in the Paralympic Games that commence on August 29th, 2012.
Given that Oscar's best time of 45.07 seconds is not good enough to even rank him in the top ten 400 meter sprinters, he is not expected to medal at the games. However, just watching the graceful runner dash across the track with his signature 16-inch long Cheetah Flex-Foot, J-shaped limbs on August 6th, will be a sight that will be etched on the memories of all track fans for many years to come and will just reaffirm Oscar's motto - 'You're not disabled by the disabilities you have, you are able by the abilities you have.'
Resources: wired.com, huffingtonpost.com, dailymail.co.uk