Saturday, August 18, 2012

The Fastest Man on No Legs

            It was a monumental Olympics for many reasons, but it was a milestone in the world of individuals with disabilities because of one man, the man known as the “Blade Runner.”  It's a fitting end to his lengthy fight to participate, having first been banned from international competition with able-bodied runners.

            Pistorius is the South African runner born with deformities to both of his legs.  Never knowing what it is like to walk on his own feet, he had the deformities amputated and began his walking career on prosthetics. And so began the inspiring career of the Blade Runner.

            Controversy surrounded his medal legs, and there were claims that his artificial limbs gave him an advantage over runners with natural ankles and feet. This controversy helped keep him out of the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.  However, at the 2012 Summer Olympics on August 4,Pistorius made history by being the first amputee runner to compete at an Olympic Games. In the 400 meters race, he took second place in the first heat of five runners, finishing with a time of 45.44 seconds (his best time of the season so far) advancing to the semi-finals.  He ran in the second semi-final, where he finished eighth with a time of 46.54 seconds.

            The debate around Pistorius flips how most people view disability. Pistorius brought about the fear that his medal legs had given him an unfair advantage. The argument is that the blades give Pistorius an added bounce that allows him to conserve oxygen and calories and that the medal would never tire like normal lower leg portions. However, the argument that Pistorius receives an advantage by his medal legs has been disproven by many scientists who have examined his movements, and point out the many disadvantages he must overcome. In any case, Pistorius is a refreshing antidote to the scandals that normally surround individuals with disabilities.

            Walking into history on medal legs, Pistorius has inspired many.  He is indeed the fastest man on no legs. My hope is that he brings awareness to others who have thought that their disability stops them from succeeding in their dreams. Pistorius has blurred the lines on disabled and able bodied individuals, a fete many have been working to do for years.  I think Pistorius said it best when he said “You're not disabled by the disabilities you have, you are able by the abilities you have."

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