On the track, speed is everything, but it's not the only thing. A little dose of grace and humility also helps.
At the London 2012 Games, South African sprinter Oscar Pistorius wowed the world when he became the first double amputee ever to compete in an Olympics. When it comes to the Paralympic Games currently underway in London, he is the unparalleled star, and over the weekend he lost his T44 200-meter race, a race he was expected to win as handily as Usain Bolt did in his recent Olympic runs. (T44 is a classification of relative levels of disability.)
Pistorius placed second to Brazil's Alan Fonteles Cardoso Oliveira, finishing just .07 seconds behind Oliveira's 21.45 seconds. Tough go, it happens, it can be heartbreaking, right? But you take it in the spirit of competition and move on ... or you throw out accusations that not all is above-board.
"We aren't racing a fair race," Pistorius said on-camera right after the race, charging that the blades Oliveira uses are too long and give him an unfair advantage.
The irony of such a charge, the Guardian notes, is that Pistorius himself has had to deal with charges of "unfair advantage" for his own blades when he races against the non-disabled, as he did in the London Olympics.
Oh, but the ironies don't end there. Pistorius is, in a way, imprisoned by his own desire to run in both Paralympic and non-disabled competitions. Pistorius' blades are the only ones cleared by the International Association of Athletic Foundations for use in both types of races. Oliveira's longer blades are only sanctioned for use in Paralympic competitions.
Pistorius was, until this point, undefeated in 200m races in high-level competition, so a bit of surprise and shock was understandable. He calmed down a bit later on, acknowledging that Oliveira had run by the rules as established. Still, there was a bit of an edge:
"He's never run a 21-second race before," Pistorius said. "That's fact. He was running high 23s less than a year ago, so you just need to look at the facts behind it ... I've never seen a guy come back from eight meters on the 100-meter mark and overtake me on the finish line."
Indeed, Oliveira did put on an impressive kick in the final straightaway. And Pistorius, apparently surprised to be challenged so late in the race, was not able to match the kick.
Oliveira, for his part, tried to rise above the fray. "I am below the maximum length of blades I could have been," he said. "I don't know who he is picking a fight with. It is not about two blades, it is about training ... All I want to do is thank everybody that helped me get here and celebrate."
The two men will race again in the T44 100m and T44 400m events. Don't expect Pistorius to be taken by surprise again.
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