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Equal but…

An Olympic legend


I don’t think there is anyone in the Caribbean or around the world who wasn’t glued to their TV sets at 4:50 p.m. Barbados time just a couple hours ago. We all had “de nerves” while watching our Caribbean athletes at the starting line for the start of the Men’s 100m final and were hoping that Bolt did what we were all expecting.

Well he did and now the number 9.63 has a special place in our hearts and history! I was not only proud of him, Yohan, Shelly Ann, Asafa or Kirani; but all our Caribbean athletes out there representing us in fine style.I don’t know about you, but I am still in shock over the number of representatives we have in London. Not only that but many of them are placing high in their heats and going through to the semis and finals.

I have truly never been prouder to be a Caribbean woman than right now at this place in Olympic history and look forward to more medals cause de games ain’t over yet!! After all, our Bajan boys are yet to compete in their hurdles event.

Anyway, this article has to do with a legend. Exactly one year ago I wrote about South Africa’s Oscar Pistorius who created history by being the first disabled person — double amputee — in the IAAF World Championships; but he became more legendary when he made his appearance at the London 2012 Olympics in the Men’s 400m.

Although he placed second in his qualifying heat, he came last in the semis, dashing any hope of a place in the finals; but again, he has already created history and will be a part of the South African relay team when we get into the relays. Ironically, that same semifinal race was won by Kirani James of Grenada and they exchanged name tags at the end of the race.

Oscar will also be participating in the Paralympics when the Olympics are over and of course that is another historical feat. Many have openly criticised his inclusion in the Olympics stating his unfair advantage running with blades; however I’m yet to see how this can be a problem since he has no feet!

By no stretch of the imagination are blades on par with or can be of greater use than feet and I find it quite amusing how quick people are to speak of an “unfair advantage” when it suits their purposes. I just wish they would decide on what they truly want to say since they deem it unfair for him to be included but then when he doesn’t place in a race they say it’s obviously because of his disability. Clearly his critics know when to pull the disability card of convenience.

As the Blade Runner — as he is affectionately known — said, if the blades gave this great advantage, then athletes who use them, the dedicated professionals in the sport, should be routinely breaking the 50 second mark in the 400 at the Paralympics and they don’t.

He’s also quoted as saying: “If these legs are able to provide such an advantage, then how come everybody else isn’t running the same times?” I agree. As pointed out by some who have done some research into his prosthetic carbon fibre limbs, he can’t get propulsion jumping out of the blocks and must pull into the race to start, he doesn’t have the side-to-side motion that assists runners in the turn and he obviously doesn’t have ankles to generate power. In his case, that power must come from the hips.

I however think people see the blades as an unfair advantage because they see it as technology in use. I agree that technology is in use but there is no evidence which supports the argument that the able bodied are at a disadvantage. Oscar came second in his heat but last in the semis. All seven other athletes in the semis had legs and won by a convincing margins. If he truly had an advantage he would not only be placing, but placing high and practically winning most if not all his races.

What people do not understand as well is that the blades don’t push Oscar, Oscar pushes the blades. He doesn’t stand there, push a button and then let the blades do the running; he literally has to do everything himself and for me the argument ends there.

I also like the fact that President of the South Africa’s Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee, Gideon Sam, said that he wasn’t taking any passengers to London; which meant that Oscar had to earn the right and prove himself worthy to make it on a team of able bodied athletes.

One thing that cannot be disputed is his heart, belief and spirit which is clearly what has kept him going despite his critics. However you feel about his blades or inclusion at the Olympics, you have to respect him. He has made history and did it in the midst of criticism, cynicism and doubt.

All that is left to be said is “Congratulations!” to the man who has done the unexplainable and unimaginable in full stride! As his tattoo so accurately states from 1 Corinthians 9:26, “I do not run like a man running aimlessly……”

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