Oscar Pistorius achieves Olympic dream, advances to 400-meter semifinal (+video)
Double-amputee Oscar Pistorius raced in a heat for the 400 meter sprint at the London Olympics Friday, making history and more – finishing second to move on to the semifinal Sunday.
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With every word, he spins himself more into the fabric of the Olympics. Who embodies the ennobling strife of sport more than Oscar Pistorius, someone who became a double amputee at age 1?Skip to next paragraph
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He said: "My mother always said, 'It's not the person who gets involved and comes in last [that loses], it's the person who never gets involved."
Who embodies the ideal of athletic fellowship and joy more than Oscar Pistorius?
He said: We work so hard everyday, and on days like this you reward yourself by doing well. It shouldn't be a burden."
Who, really, deserves to be at the Olympics more than Oscar Pistorius?
Saturday gave its own answer, though the broader questions raised by Pistorius's participation will remain.
Science suggests that for able-bodied sprinters, speed is not generated by moving your legs faster – virtually everyone from Usain Bolt to Bob Costas moves their legs through the air at the same rate. Rather, speed comes from applying greater force when your foot hits the ground. Olympic legend Jesse Owens essentially had it figured out when he said: “I let my feet spend as little time on the ground as possible. From the air, fast down, and from the ground, fast up.”
Because his blades are significantly lighter than organic legs, however, Pistorius can churn his legs some 20 percent faster than every other runner on the track. This gives him a clear advantage, says Peter Weyand, who performed the research and runs the Southern Methodist University's Locomotor Performance Laboratory in Dallas.
Others argue that further research could suggest offsetting drawbacks that mean Pistorius receives no net advantage. For example, Pistorius starts slower because he must stand upright to flex his blades, whereas other sprinters drive through the first few steps with their bodies low. At this point, science is not only split, but not sure if it has the whole story yet.
At this point, science is not only split, but not sure if it has the whole story yet.
For his part, Pistorius has submitted to numerous scientific tests. "It's important to him to figure out if it is an advantage," said Hurtault.
Hurtault notes that he does notice a different cadence to Pistorius's stride, but he's not about to concede that that makes his friend built for greater speed. "It's really tough for me to say that someone who has no legs has an advantage in track and field," he smiles.
All he knows is that the man with no legs lining up in the blocks with him is much more alike than different.
"I see the same thing I have and everyone else has in him – he wants to compete against the best in the world," Hurtault said. "And that's why I'm glad to see him out here."