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

the back.

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

come close.”

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) or