Pistorius ready for 'daunting' Olympic quest

BY foxsports • April 14, 2011

Oscar Pistorius has the 2012 Olympic schedule stuck to his fridge, and is counting down the days.

It's 470 days until the opening ceremony on July 27, 2012.

But before the South African double-amputee sprinter can line up against the world's best able-bodied athletes at the London Games next year - and realize the biggest goal of his career - Pistorius must run his fastest 400-meter time.

Pistorius has to shave three-tenths of a second off his recent personal best to hit the 45.25-second mark that will qualify him for the 2011 world championships and put him on course for the Olympics.

Pistorius told The Associated Press on Thursday he's hopeful that he'll be lining up for both the Olympics and the Paralympics.

''I am under pressure, yes,'' said Pistorius, who has four months to improve his time. ''It is something that's pretty daunting. We've been in this situation before with 2008 where I had two months to qualify for the Olympics and missed it. I vowed that that would never happen again.''

This season, he'll be running against athletes of the caliber of former world and Olympic 400 champion Jeremy Wariner in a Diamond League meet in New York in June.

His confidence is boosted by the 45.61 he ran in South Africa last month.

''After running my race three or four weeks ago, I know what I am capable of doing. If I don't do it (qualify for the worlds and Olympics), it's my own fault,'' he said. ''I think that pressure is enough to do what I need to do.''

Pistorius is set to run Diamond League meets in Oregon and New York City, following the Paralympic World Cup in Manchester, England. It's part of an 11-race schedule that may qualify him for the world championships in August in Daegu, South Korea.

Should he run 45.25 or under, he would almost certainly make South Africa's team for the 2012 Games.

Having failed to qualify for the able-bodied Olympics in 2008, Pistorius said it's different this time because he is leaner, fitter and a ''more mature'' athlete.

He's dropped from around 182 pounds to 169 pounds. He also competed in 16 able-bodied events in 2009 and 14 in 2010. In the buildup to the 2008 Olympics, he ran against able-bodied athletes just three times a year.

The 24-year-old Pistorius said the experience gained has been ''massive.''

''I've run more (able-bodied) races in the last two years than I have run in my whole life so that, for me, counts a lot,'' he said. ''Every race you learn something from. The good races you learn something from, your worst races you learn even more from.''

Pistorius gained international fame when he tried to qualify for the Beijing Olympics. He had to battle an IAAF ban from competing in able-bodied races after his carbon-fiber blades were deemed an unfair advantage.

He went to the Court of Arbitration for Sport and was cleared in 2008. But the legal process took a toll on training and he didn't come close to the qualifying time for Beijing.

''It was quite a tough period, I guess, a lot of time was taken off training,'' Pistorius said. ''It was terrible going through it, but in a way it was good. Now I can run without having to answer those questions anymore.''

Pistorius had his lower legs amputated when he was 11 months old, but has always been involved in sports. He competed in rugby, water polo and tennis. He took up running as part of a rehabilitation program after getting a rugby injury.

''My mother was someone who never pitied the fact that I had prosthetic legs,'' he said. ''As far as she was concerned, the only difference between me and my brother was that my brother put his shoes on in the morning and I put my legs on - and that's it.

''But (track), ironically, was the one sport I didn't enjoy.''

He got a running coach in January 2004, ''and three weeks later I ran my first Paralympic world record, and eight months later I had my first gold in Athens.''

He is the world record-holder in the 100, 200 and 400 for disabled athletes, and a multiple gold-medal winner at the Paralympics.

He's among the famous names in track and has endorsements. He was back home in Johannesburg on Thursday to promote a men's cologne by Thierry Mugler. He couldn't resist pointing out that Hollywood star Charlize Theron is one of only two other South Africans to be the face of an international fragrance.

''If you told me five years ago that this would have happened, I wouldn't believe it,'' he said.

But the ultimate dream - just lining up in the starting blocks at the Olympics - is still more than a year away.

''We are spot on with where we want to be,'' he said. ''So now, take each race as it comes and try and blast everyone out of the blocks. Every race I run as if it might be my last or the last opportunity I've got.''