Oscar Pistorius is a sprinter, sure, but he's also basically a professional world's-firster. Last year he became the world's first amputee to run in the World Championships, and today it was announced that Pistorius, whose legs were both amputated below the knee at less than a year old, will become the first amputee to run in the Olympic Games this summer in London. (He'll also be competing in the Paralympic Games--another world's first.) [CORRECTION]
Pistorius will be competing for his native South Africa in both the 400m sprint and the 4x400m relay, after a grueling qualification year in which his times hovered right around the 45.3-second mark, the qualifying line. Still, that must have seemed like one of the easier challenges for Pistorius, who in 2008 ended a long-standing debate when the Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled that his prosthetic legs do not present an unfair advantage, and named him eligible to compete. He didn't qualify for the 2008 games in Beijing, but he'll be hopping a flight to London.
There's still talk, of course, about the fairness or unfairness of Pistorius's prosthetics, and in a more practical sense, some concern about the safety of other runners who could come in contact with his Cheetah Flex-Foot artificial limbs. But the prevailing mood seems to be celebratory--it's one hell of an inspiring story.
Correction: Thanks to the commenters for reminding us of Natalie du Toit, a South African swimmer who competes without a prosthesis for her left leg, which was amputated following a car accident. du Toit was the first amputee to qualify for the Olympics, competing in the 10K "Marathon" swim in 2008 in Beijing. Pistorius is the first double amputee, and the first to compete with the aid of a prosthesis (or, in his case, two).
Really, if you feel like he's got an unfair advantage, why don't you chop off your legs below the knee and get yourself some Cheetah Flex-Foot limbs... otherwise quit whining and admire his determination, drive and wil...
Tink tink has come so far =')
Advantage or not isn't the interesting question. I'm curious how he can be eligible for both games. To follow this logic to it's goofy but inevitable conclusion is to wonder when a non-disabled person will petition to run in the Paralympics under some interpretation of the ADA accessibility laws.
And Marzo...I was thinkin' it but someone had to say it!
"Oscar Pistorius Will Be the First Amputee to Compete in the Olympic Games"
No he is not.
Swimmer Natalie du Toit lost a leg in a car accident when she was a teenager:
"On 3 May 2008, Du Toit qualified for the 2008 Beijing Olympics after finishing fourth in the 10 km open water race at the Open Water World Championships in Seville, Spain. Her time was only 5.1 seconds off the winner in a race that made its first Olympic appearance in Beijing. At the Beijing Olympics women's 10 km race, she finished in 16th place, 1:22.2 minutes behind the winner."
Like Oscar, she is also a South African. She is also an incredibly humble woman and involved with numerous charitable and sports organizations.
I'm curious about this, certain suits were banned from the swimming competitions due to "unfair" advantages, granted this guy is at a disadvantage normally, those amazing prosthetics give him a speed advantage over those with natural legs. Not whining or complaining, just stating the truth. That's like saying Steven Hawking can "run" in a turbocharged wheelchair and its "ok" because his entire body is paralyzed.
More power to him, it's amazing to see someone overcome such a physical set back... but if he wins, expect some issues to arise.
Playing Devil's Advocate since 1978
"The only constant in the universe is change"
-Heraclitus of Ephesus 535 BC - 475 BC
The idea of this man competing in the olympics confuses me. I am so happy with technology he can run and for the future, I hope we continue to enhance those lives, which are limited. But it does feel strangely odd, that the playing field of compitition is not level in this particular case.
As a South African this is tough one for me. As ddames pointed out the only other amputee who ever achieved this was Natalie du Toit.
The reality however about Oscar is we really don't know if there is a net benefit to the use of his blades. I wrote an article about this is 2008 actually referencing a PopSci comment on the legitimacy of his prosthetics.
As it turns out there was a thorough analysis of the data and some legitimate concerns about the results of the IAAF tests. [the full awards document can be downloaded here] The main concern was that although the IAAF report analyses the advantages of the Cheetah flex foot prosthetics they did no analysis on the disadvantages of wearing the prosthetic or being a double amputee. As a result they could not comment on whether Pistorius gained a “net advantage” over an able bodied athlete, something the Cologne scientists were happy to concede. An analysis on net advantage had never been in their mandate by the IAAF.
That said I will be glued to my screen for the 4x400M relay and if he wins a medal I am sure there won't be a dry eye in the country. Just saying.
If this gentleman wins, was it because of his technology. If this gentlemen looses, was it because of his handycap or technology. Sadly, for this gentleman he can never completely compete fairly with those that do not have a handicap. Of course this is my opinion and I reserve the right to change my mind.
This is not a fair trade. I don't know wich way, but still unfair. I mean, the limbs he's lost are an essential part of the mechanism that takes a runner to their goal. An athlete trains in some way that every part of his body acquire (or not) the ability to perform at its best. This is tech, and don't need to be trained, it needs to be designed, crafted, ajusted and calibrated. Yes, Oscar is a great example of will and determination, but that's not the question, every other athlete is also supposed to be the same exaple. The matter here is his limbs are not organic parts that can be trained the same way, nor share the risk of damage, neither can be adapted on the go. They have their own 'nature'. And, if he wins, there will be always uncertainity about what was the crucial factor, was his will and heart? was it the prosthetics?.
As I said, either way this is unfair. But... life is not fair. Anyway I'll keep an eye on him, I hope he makes it to the finals.
@turbosinaboy, you seem to be under the impression that legs alone are involved in running. As if he could just set the prosthetics on the starting blocks and watch them win for him. His core and legs are still the engine for his running. He still has master balance and propulsion.
Remember, these prosthetics are not not "active" - he can only get out of them what he puts into them. Whatever running he's doing HE's doing it.
I understand where you are going with this, but I believe you are understanding it too simply. That would be like saying the height I can reach on a trampoline should be considered my vertical leap. I am the engine leaping. The trampoline is a passive instrument that helps me get there.
As such, the question with Pastorius would be if his cheetah-feet have more spring in them than would be recognized in a "normal" human. Obviously this is very difficult to test, especially when most Olympians are nowhere near normal.
And if you haven't seen it, go to youtube and look up the "Nike I Got Soul" video from the 2008 Olympics. It ends with this guy running, and me nearly in tears. He is a very inspiring person for us all.
If Oscar Pistorius' "Cheeta" legs were an advantage over human legs, we would've already seen faster running times at the Paralympics. BUT WE HAVEN'T. Paralympians on these legs consistently run slower than their able-bodied counterparts and Oscar's talent lies solely in his incredible athletic talent from the knees up. The proof: of the hundreds of Paralympic athletes who've run on these legs for the past 20 years: he is the ONLY one who has EVER qualified for the Olympics, and then only just barely. Case closed. All the rest is just sour grapes or rank ignorance.
Makes you wonder what will happen when they get more robotic cyber legs out there like on Deus Ex, will they still be saying its fair and well. One might think that one day they will have a special division of Olympics for ENHANCED athletics. Minus the drugs hopefully.
I wonder how this will play out as prosthetic technology improves. At some point man made limbs could provide a real advantage over our natural ones, especially if designed for a singular task like sprinting or swimming. I don't think we are quite there yet so this instance should be about the will, determination and athletic talent that it takes to make it to the Olympics.
Perhaps a relevant question regarding the fairness is would a normal runner be able to run faster by wearing these legs? Or have we evolved the ideal leg design and length for our musculature?
Alternately, would Oscar run faster with prosthetics that are twice as large?
Perhaps in time we will decide that any equipment, so long as it is unpowered (so sorry Mr. Hawking, no hot-rod wheelchair entry) is fair game. That might be where my vote lies, although it perhaps offers an unfair advantage to those with the most money -- but I would suggest that happened a long time ago and is a battle long lost.
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This is just a bad idea. I'm glad for Oscar to have this chance, just as I would be if he played the lottery and won. But it doesnt make it any less of a bad idea.
You cant seriously have cyborgs compete against flesh and bone humans. It is inevitable at some point flesh and bone will be outmatched.