Twin Olympic joy for double amputee Pistorius
7/4/2012 11:00:06 PM -
JOHANNESBURG (AFP) - South African double amputee athlete Oscar Pistorius had twin cause for joy Wednesday after being told he could run in the 400 metres and the 4x400m relay at the 2012 Olympic Games in London.
Confirmation that he would become the first amputee to compete at the Games came with his inclusion in the relay team, and a few hours later the national Olympic committee did a u-turn and agreed to him also running in the individual event.
Athletics South Africa (ASA) convinced Olympic body SASCOC that Pistorius should compete in the 400m despite bettering the 45.30-second qualifying time only once instead of twice as demanded.
SASCOC chief executive Tubby Reddy told AFP his body "did not have a problem with that" and a day to remember for 25-year-old Johannesburg-born Pistorius was complete.
His selections come five days after conceding defeat in a battle to run in the 400m as he finished 0.22 of a second outside the qualifying mark of 45.30 seconds when finishing second at the African championships in Benin.
Pistorius did clock 45.20 at a meet in Pretoria last March, but could not repeat the feat at an international meet, a requirement for selection in the South African team.
But his sadness turned to joy as South Africa finalised the squad for London by choosing a relay team including Pistorius, Willem de Beer, Ofentse Mogawane and Shaun de Jager.
"Today is really one of the happiest days of my life. I will be in London for both the Olympic Games and the Paralympic Games," Pistorius tweeted after hearing of his selection.
"Thank you to everyone who has made me the athlete I am today. God, family and friends, my competitors and supporters. You have all had a hand," he added.
South African Olympic chief Gideon Sam congratulated Pistorius, the rest of the relay team and nine other athletes added to the 112 named last month as the country seeks to improve on a dismal one-medal show at the 2008 Beijing Games.
"It has taken four years, but now we can concentrate on doing our best at the Games. The preparation has been done and now it is up to our athletes to take over in London and show us what they are made of.
"As I have said many times before, we are not taking passengers to London. Everyone has met selection criteria and are genuine Olympic Games material. I wish them all the best."
Called the 'Blade Runner' and 'The Fastest Man on no legs', Pistorius was part of the South African 4x400m relay squad that came second at the 2011 world championships in South Korea although he did not run in the final.
There had been fears that South Africa would not send a relay team as no athlete qualified for the 400m and the world championship silver medal-winning team has been hit by poor form and injuries.
Pistorius runs with carbon-fibre artificial 'blades' and was cleared to compete at top level in 2008 when the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) overturned an IAAF ruling that his blades gave him an unfair advantage.
The South African had both legs amputated below the knee before turning one-year-old because of a congenital condition that meant he was born without lower leg bones.
Having failed to qualify for the 400m at the 2008 Beijing Olympics he went on to compete at the 2011 world championships in South Korea, where he made the 400m semi-final and won a silver in the 4x400m relay.
However, his omission from the relay team for the final left him venting his anger at South African officials.
Pistorius, a three-event defending champion, will also compete at the Paralympic Games in London in the 100m, 200m, 400m and 4x100m relay.
"I am extremely excited about the Paralympic Games in London and a big focus for me will be defending my three titles as well as being part of the South African team competing for a world record in the 4x100m relay at the Paralympics," he said.