Column: Pistorius ‘wins’ despite no Olympic medal
By the time Oscar Pistorius got the baton he was so far behind
that he wasn’t going to catch the pack on the final lap, even if
the carbon-fiber blades he was running on had superchargers. He and
his South African teammates had no chance for a medal in the 4×400
final, though on this night the Olympics for them were about more
than just winning a gold.
Pistorius would finish last, just as he had in the 400-meter
semifinal a few days earlier. Though he was second-fastest of the
four men on his team, his performance in these games should finally
put to rest claims he has an unfair advantage because of the
springs he runs on.
The results hardly mattered. His appearances at these games were
more groundbreaking than spectacular even if it was a bit of a
thrill watching him get around the track so fast on legs that were
amputated beneath the knees before his first birthday.
The crowd packed into the Olympic stadium roared their support.
His fellow runners showed theirs afterward with hugs and pats on
He was a runner, and that was all. That was more than OK,
because that’s all Pistorius ever wanted to be.
Accepted for what he does, not for the way his missing legs
force him to do it.
”Just a regular guy to me,” U.S. runner Tony McQuay said. ”I
don’t even look down and see what he’s running with down there.
Doesn’t matter to me. I know Oscar’s heart. Oscar’s a great
Pistorius has gotten about everything he can out of his J-shaped
Cheetahs blades, but it still doesn’t give him the push to start a
race like runners with calf muscles or the ability to make a turn
like runners who have ankles.
At first glance, you’d think he should be some sort of superman,
bounding past other runners on his springs. The reality is, the
blades help level the playing field but don’t give him any special
advantage. He still has to be a supremely trained athlete to even
compete against the world’s best on two good legs.
The best thing about it all in London may have been just how
normal it seemed. That was all Pistorius could have asked out of an
Olympics he had to fight to be in. The medals could wait for
another time – say Rio, four years from now, when Pistorius thinks
he will really be in his prime. This was more about competing hard
and being accepted and, if they awarded a gold for that, Pistorius
would have it around his neck.
”This week has just been one of the biggest blessings for me,”
Pistorius said. ”It’s taught me a lot. I’ve been inspired by so
many athletes. Just to have had that opportunity to step outside,
it’s been absolutely phenomenal. I’m sure in a week I’m going to
have the same emotions that I’m going to have in 40 or 50 years’
Pistorius isn’t going to be the only one who has memories.
Eighty thousand people in the stadium kept their eyes trained on
him while he tried unsuccessfully to catch even one runner while
the team from the Bahamas overtook the U.S. on the last lap to win
the gold medal. Flashes went off throughout the stadium as he ran;
it didn’t matter than he was last.
His teammates will savor this night, too.
”Ten or 20 years from now we will still remember the day we ran
with Oscar,” said L.J. Van Zyl, who handed the baton off to
Pistorius for the final lap.
Pistorius said he hasn’t had a chance to reflect on what the
week meant, though he believes it will inspire others with
disabilities to try to perform beyond what people think they can
He never came close to winning a medal in his two races, but he
achieved his goal of running in a 400-meter semifinal. The 400
relay final was more of a bonus, with South Africa getting in only
after a protest over a collision in a heat the day before, when
Pistorius was waiting for teammate Ofentse Mogawane to hand him the
”Far beyond my expectations,” Pistorius said, referring to his
Olympic experience. ”If I took all the positive things I thought
might come out of this and multiply it by 10, it still couldn’t
More positive things could follow. Pistorius is competing in the
Paralympics later this month, where he will defend his 100, 200 and
400 titles from Beijing and try for four gold medals.
”My job at the end of the day is to run,” Pistorius said.
”We’ve got the Paralympics in three weeks and I’m so proud to be a
Paralympian. There are so many athletes just like myself who
sacrifice things day in and day out.”
The sacrifice for this week didn’t show up in the medals
But Pistorius is still one of the biggest winners in these
Tim Dahlberg is a national sports columnist for The Associated
Press. Write to him at tdahlberg(at)ap.org or