South Africa’s Oscar Pistorius made history when he became the first double amputee to compete in an athletics event, qualifying for the semi-finals with a season’s best of 45.44 seconds.
Pistorius, who runs on carbon fibre blades, said the occasion had almost overwhelmed him, as he at last realised his dream after battling to convince the authorities to let him make it happen for several years.
“I was so nervous this morning,” said Pistorius. “I didn’t know whether to cry. I had a mixture of emotions. It was the most amazing experience, the crowd was amazing. I saw the South African flag.”
But LaShawn Merritt, the American sprinter who was favourite to retain his 400m title at the London Olympics, pulled up in his heat and limped off the track. Merritt, who has struggled back from a doping ban disgrace, stopped running after 250 metres of his heat and crossed the line at walking pace.
The American won the chance to compete at London by taking the title at last month’s US Olympic trials in 44.12 seconds, the fastest time in the world this year. But he pulled up in the Monaco Diamond League meet last month, similarly coming to a halt after 300 metres.
“I’ve been having treatment since I got here. When you want it so bad, you do what it takes. But I need some more rest. It’s feeling a whole lot better but when I really went for it, I felt it. It’s probably a hamstring strain. I felt it twitch during my warm-up. I tried to get through it, but I couldn’t. It’s just one of those things. Now, may the best man win.”
Published in The Express Tribune, August 5th, 2012.
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