Grenada's Kirani James may capture gold in the 400 meters Monday night, but his most inspirational moment of the Olympics probably came the previous day.
Instead of immediately celebrating his victory in the 400-meter semifinals Sunday, James approached South Africa's Oscar Pistorius, embraced him and asked to exchange bib numbers. It was a sign of the respect the reigning world champion has for the double amputee sprinter whose bid to make the 400 meters final fell short when he finished last in their semifinal heat.
"My hat's off to him, just coming out here and competing," James told reporters in London on Saturday after Pistorius qualified for the semifinals. "I just see him as another athlete, another competitor. What's more important is I see him as another person. He's someone I admire and respect."
That James won the semifinal heat and Pistorius finished last wasn't a huge surprise.
James became the clear-cut favorite to win gold after defending Olympic champ LaShawn Merritt pulled up with a hamstring injury during Saturday's prelims. And Pistorius was elated to even make the semifinal by running a season-best time Saturday to finish second in his preliminary heat.
Pistorius, known as "Blade Runner" because of his two carbon fiber prosthetic legs, fell behind at the start Sunday because his springy blades force him to pop straight up out of the blocks rather than driving out low and reducing wind resistance. Against weaker runners, he can often recover from that early deficit. Against a world-class field like he faced Sunday, that was too much to ask.
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Pistorius' time of 46.54 seconds was more than a second slower than he ran Saturday and nearly two seconds behind James' winning time.
It was a disappointing finish, but it doesn't detract from everything Pistorius accomplished getting to London. James' race-ending gesture only reinforced that.
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- Oscar Pistorius
- Kirani James