Feb 14, 2013, 2:28 PM EDT
News that South African sprinter Oscar Pistorius had been charged with murdering his girlfriend, model Reeva Steenkamp, on Thursday came as a shock to nearly everyone who had heard the runner’s inspirational story of his struggle to become the first double-amputee ever to compete at the Olympics.
Pistorius, now 26, was born without fibulas and and had to have his legs amputated below the knee at only eleven months old. That didn’t stop him from competing in rugby, tennis, and water polo while growing up in Pretoria, before being introduced to running in after suffering a knee injury.
Fueled by his competitive spirit and riding on his new racing “blades,” fitted for him by prosthetist Francois Vanderwatt, Pistorius went on to win gold in the 200m at the Paralympic Games in Athens only months after starting to race, and then finished sixth in at the 400m able-bodied national championships the next year.
He won the 100m, 200m, and 400m Paralympic world championships in 2006, and then set his sights on qualifying for the Beijing Olympics. One problem: Pistorius had a number of detractors, including world record holder Michael Johnson, who suggested that his disability was actually an advantage, since the runner raced on specially engineer carbon fiber limbs.
“I know Oscar well, and he knows my position; my position is that because we don’t know for sure whether he gets an advantage from the prosthetics that he wears it is unfair to the able-bodied competitors…
“Oscar sees no limits; he has no fear when competing against able-bodied athletes. So it is hard for people to understand and to accept when you start to talk about whether or not he may have the advantage.”
The IAAF, track’s governing body, agreed, and banned any device using springs, wheels, or any other device that might provide an advantage in 2007, marking Pistorius ineligible for the 2008 Games.
Pistorius eventually won a reprieve with the Court of Arbitration for Sport in April 2008, which, after a two-day hearing in Switzerland, determined that Pistorius held no advantage and was allowed to compete against able-bodied runners.
“Oscar’s done so much for Paralympic sport and I’m grateful for all the eyes he has opened to what Paralympic sport can be,” British Paralympic gold medal sprinter Johnnie Peacock, who started racing after seeing Pistorius on TV, told the London Telegraph.
The “Blade Runner,” as he’s now known, didn’t qualify for the Olympics in 2008, but was named one of Time’s 100 most influential people after winning the right to compete, and signed sponsorship deals with Oakley, Nike, Thierry Mugler, and running blade manufacturer Ossur, in all totaling nearly $5 million.
Now able to compete against the world’s best, Pistorius became the first double-amputee to win an able-bodied world championship medal when his 4×400 relay team took silver in Daegu in 2011. And despite failing to run the necessary Olympic “A” standard qualification time twice, the South African Olympic Committee announced last July 4 that Pistorius had been selected for the Olympic team for the 400m and 4x400m relay.
Two months later, on August 4, 2012, Pistorius became the first double-amputee runner to compete at the Olympics. And better than that, he took second in his preliminary heat with a time of 45.44 seconds, a season best that put him into the semifinals.
“It just felt really magical,” Pistorius said. “If I could predict what it would feel like or imagine beyond my wildest dreams, this was probably 10 times that. To step out in front of a crowd this massive, it’s a mind-blowing experience,” he added. “I’ve had support in the last couple of days like I have never felt before.”
Pistorius was knocked out in the semis, finishing eighth in the race. After the event, the South African symbolically exchanged racing bibs with Kirani James of Grenada, who eventually went on to win the gold.
“This whole experience was amazing… to step out here in an Olympic final is more than I could have ever hoped for,” Pistorius said after that race. “That opportunity to come here once again and finish today and not yesterday is a dream come true.”
The inspirational athlete was asked to carry the South African flag at the Olympics Closing Ceremony as a tribute to his struggle and success, and went on to earn two more Paralympic golds a month later.
Jun 19, 2013, 4:48 PM EDT
The IOC Coordination Commission recently swung through the 2018 Winter Games host city PyeongChang for its second such evaluation visit since South Korea won the bid two years ago, and apparently everything is going swimmingly so far. “We’ve once again seen good progress from PyeongChang 2018,” IOC member Gunilla Lindberg said. “And an excellent team…
Jun 19, 2013, 12:52 PM EDT
Yohan Blake, the other Jamaican sprinter, the one who won the 2011 100m world title and happened to beat Usain Bolt at the 100m and 200m at nationals last year, will be forced to withdraw from the same event this season as he’s still dealing with a hamstring injury he suffered in April. “Yohan’s coach…
Jun 19, 2013, 11:55 AM EDT
The Australian swimmers who admitted to “stupid” actions, including taking the sleeping pill Stilnox weeks after it was banned by the AOC, may face additional sanctions sometime next week when a report detailing their childish behavior is released. “We decided to continue in what we felt was a harmless activity and tradition,” the swimmers explained…
Jun 19, 2013, 9:35 AM EDT
Apparently it only takes about six seconds to alienate a community you’ve spent seven months endearing yourself to. Or at least that’s what world champion bobsledder Lolo Jones learned when she hopped on Vine a couple days ago to make a video somewhat mocking the $741.84 she earned for her season. Jones, who has endorsements…
Jun 18, 2013, 3:59 PM EDT
Three-time Olympic champ Veronica Campbell-Brown is hoping to avoid a maximum suspension for doping because the drug she tested positive for was reportedly contained in a cream she declared on her doping control form, according to Reuters. The Jamaican sprinter tested positive for the diuretic furosemide, which was found in urine samples taken at the…
Jun 18, 2013, 1:24 PM EDT
Former Olympics ice dancing champs Gwendal Peizerat and Marina Anissina of France announced that they’ll reunite for a surprise comeback in hopes of qualifying for next year’s Sochi Games a full twelve years after retiring. “We got an offer from the French figure skating federation and the French sports ministry about taking part in the…
Jun 18, 2013, 12:15 PM EDT
World record 800m runner David Rudisha will be sidelined for about three weeks after suffering an injury while running New York’s Central Park. “[Rudisha] was jogging inside Central Park when he realized something was the matter with his knee,” his coach Colm O’Connell told Reuters Tuesday. “Two initial investigations were done, first in the USA and also in…
Jun 18, 2013, 10:32 AM EDT
Following a side-meeting at the G8 Summit in Ireland on Monday, President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin decided that their two nations should join efforts in order to ensure the safety and security of athletes, officials, fans, and world leaders at next year’s Olympics. “The United States and Russia intend to continue to…
Jun 17, 2013, 1:23 PM EDT
There’s still three months until the IOC determines which city – Tokyo, Madrid, or Istanbul – will host the 2020 Olympics. But two anonymous IOC officials told the Japan Times that Tokyo has the bid nearly locked up. All its officials need to do is avoid any major mistakes before the vote. Tokyo Governor and…
Jun 17, 2013, 11:39 AM EDT
A new rule set in place by the International Boxing Association that would allow pros with fewer than fifteen bouts on their records to compete in the upcoming Olympics is in jeopardy after protests from boxing organizations and promoters. Now North American Boxing Federation President Joseph Dwyer is getting into the fight, and said his…
Jun 17, 2013, 10:38 AM EDT
Following the recent failed drug test and impeding suspension of Jamaican Olympic champ Veronica Campbell-Brown, Usain Bolt’s coach Glen Mills said it was time for the government to create an accredited anti-doping lab to “ensure the purity of substances” the athletes are using for training. “It just re-emphasizes the need for all involved to be…
Jun 15, 2013, 12:00 PM EDT
Despite the budding relationship between Lindsey Vonn and Tiger Woods, the Olympic champ said she’s been able to go relatively unnoticed at this week’s U.S. Open just outside Philadelphia. “I can be normal by myself; no one notices me,” she told the New York Times Friday. “But wherever he’s around, we’re living in a fishbowl.…
Jun 15, 2013, 10:53 AM EDT
Olympic champion sprinter Veronica Campbell-Brown is facing a two-year suspension from racing after samples taken at the Kingston Invitational last month tested positive for a banned substance. Testers reportedly found a diuretic in her system that was banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency because of its use a masking agent for performance enhancing drugs. Campbell-Brown…
Jun 14, 2013, 11:08 AM EDT
Before Usain Bolt dominated the Bislett Games 200m race in Oslo Thursday – running a 2013 world’s best of 19.79 seconds to beat the field by 0.57 seconds – the world record sprinter, showman, and noted auto enthusiast excited the crowd when he arrived in a Formula 1 car. He may be a six-time Olympic…
Jun 14, 2013, 10:34 AM EDT
Hurdler turned bobsledder (and now back to hurdler, we guess) Lolo Jones has apparently decided that the best way to land a date with Olympics legend Michael Phelps is to build a pool and invite him over for a swim. Or maybe she just wants him to bring one of his 22 career medals, after…
Jun 14, 2013, 9:36 AM EDT
In not so surprising news, Oscar Pistorius has been left off the South African Paralympic team for the World Championships next month in France. The once inspiring Olympic sprinter and Paralympian champion ruled out racing in 2013 back in May so he and his team could focus on his upcoming murder trial. Pistorus has admitted…
Jun 13, 2013, 4:18 PM EDT
After his loss to Justin Gatlin in Rome last week, Jamaica’s Usain Bolt was looking for redemption and looking to make a statement with his 200m race in Oslo Thursday. He didn’t disappoint, breaking the tape in a meet record and 2013 world’s best 19.79 seconds, well clear of the pack. “I’m not in as…
Jun 13, 2013, 11:43 AM EDT
On top of Madrid’s relatively minuscule budget of $1.9 billion for the 2020 Olympics – one-tenth of the $19 billion Istanbul has earmarked – Spain hopes the introduction of a new doping law three months before the vote will strengthen its bid. The new “Law for the Protection of Athletes’ Health and the Fight Against…
Jun 13, 2013, 10:48 AM EDT
Istanbul 2020 Officials said Wednesday that the recent violent protests in their nation will have “no bearing” on whether or not Istanbul is chosen to host the 2020 Olympics when IOC members meet for a final vote in Buenos Aires this September. “The feedback Istanbul 2020 has received from IOC members and the wider Olympic…
Jun 13, 2013, 8:30 AM EDT
During his annual quasi-State of the Union address Wednesday before the first game of the Stanley Cup Finals, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said that time is running out on locking up a deal between the NHL and the Olympics. The talks between the NHL, IOC, and IIHF have been ongoing since January, after the NHL…