The 2012 Summer Olympic Games, officially the XXX Olympiad, is scheduled to begin in London on July 27th. Without a doubt, the sporting events bring excitement, but I’ve found that the stories of the athletes who compete are, oftentimes, as much if not more interesting. With that in mind, I thought I’d bring some of their stories to the blog. I hope that you find that the challenges they have overcome, and the talent and drive they possess to be just as inspiring as I’ve found them to be.
I first read about Oscar Pistorius when I was writing my post about Time Magazine’s 100 most influential people of 2011. The magazine offered some brief biographies about each of the people named to the list, and Oscar stood out in a way that ensured his place among some very great – and some not very great – people. The 25-year-old South African native was born without the fibula in both legs. The decision to amputate both of his legs, below the knee, was made before he could walk, with his parents and doctors in agreement that he would adjust to prosthetics more easily that way.
Adjustment was an understatement as the young boy not only learned how to use his new legs within just a few days, but became a sportsman during his early school years. Oscar took part in tennis, cricket, water polo, tennis, wrestling and boxing. During a rugby match in 2003, the then high school junior shattered his knee, something which would have put anyone’s athletic career behind them. Oscar, however, took the advice of one of his doctors, and began running track as a part of his rehabilitation.
With his typical drive, he not only made his comeback as a sportsman, but excelled on the track. Running on a specially designed set of prosthetics, the Flex-Foot Cheetahs, Oscar began setting world records in Paralympics competitions.
He wasn’t satisfied with those accomplishments, however, and began competing in able-bodied races during 2011. His efforts were thwarted when his qualifications were questioned by the International Association of Athletics Federation. The IAAF, relying on the findings of their own professor of biomechanics, determined that Oscar’s prosthetic legs gave him an advantage over the able-bodied athletes, and banned him from further competitions. I’ll give you a moment to digest that – I had to read it a couple of times myself to make sure I wasn’t seeing things. The runner hired his own attorneys to challenge the IAAF’s decision and then began testing at Rice University, with a team of scientists, to refute the IAAF’s claims. He was successful in his appeals process, allowing him to pursue his goal of racing with athletes who did not have his challenges.
Three years ago, Oscar was seriously injured in a boating accident. Again, this only served to strengthen his resolve, and he went back to training to strengthen his body. So now, here he is, chosen by his country to represent them in London. As of today, he will be a member of the team that will race in both the 1,600 meter relay and the individual 400 meters. I know it matters a great deal to him, but I don’t really care how he places. I think he’s already earned his gold. On a personal note, my own aches and pains really don’t seem like such a big deal anymore.