Angry Oscar beaten by a length: Controversy as the Blade Runner loses his title
21:07 GMT, 2 September 2012
In typically self-effacing fashion, Oscar Pistorius said a week ago he ‘would try’ to retain his Paralympic T44 200 metres title in London.
In his polite, mild-mannered way he said it ‘would be nice’ to win his third consecutive gold medal over half a lap of the track.
‘I know the guys are getting stronger and it’s nice to see the sport evolve,’ said the only amputee athlete to compete at both the Olympic and Paralympic Games.
Those words came when we sat down at a track in Barking, east London, after a training session. Pistorius made me a cup of coffee — careful to ask would I like caffeinated or decaf, milk or sugar – and explained how he had not done any raw speed work over the past four years.
Dejected: Oscar Pistorius lost his Paralympic T44 200m title
He talked about running his first
100m race for 16 months in Warsaw, Poland, and how he had put on three
kilograms of muscle since the Olympics after two weeks of intensive
Pistorius, 25, concentrates on the
400m these days, the event in which he has represented South Africa at
the World Championships and now the Olympic Games. It sounded like the
most well-known Paralympian on the planet was getting his excuses in
Some six days later, on Saturday
night, he set a 200m world record for double amputees below the knee,
running 21.30 seconds to qualify for last night’s final.
Pistorius looked a certain winner
coming into the home straight last night but Alan Oliveira of Brazil
came out of nowhere, with a flying final 30 metres, to pip him on the
line to win in 21.45sec. It was the first time the South African has
been beaten over 200m in the Paralympics.
Pistorius does not normally deal in
excuses. The South African, after all, grew up with a mother, Sheila,
who used to tell his brother Carl to put his shoes on and Oscar to put
his legs on and ‘that’s the last I want to hear of it’.
Pistorius has a tattoo on his left shoulder that says: ‘I do not run like a man running aimlessly.’
The new, leaner athlete looks very
different to the chunky former rugby player who won three Paralympic
gold medals in Beijing. But the 17kg he has shed in the past four years
and the strides he has made in non-disabled competition have only
strengthened his resolve to write his name in the second chapter of his
remarkable London 2012 story. It is crucial that the Paralympics’ most
famous face is seen to take the competition seriously.
‘Everybody was saying I don’t care
about the Paralympic Games and I can’t peak for both,’ said Pistorius.
‘But I’ve proved everybody wrong.
‘I’ve been overwhelmed just thinking
about coming back out here and I’ll tell you what — the crowds are
exactly the same (as during the Olympics).’
He even had time to criticise the
‘new’ longer legs of some of his rivals, particularly his conqueror,
Oliveira, and Blake Leeper from the USA, who finished behind him in
third. Pistorius believes their longer prostheses are giving them a
‘There is definitely something up
with the length of the prosthetic legs,’ he said. ‘Alan was shorter than
me but now he’s taller. The same with Blake Leeper. It’s a problem
because the rules allow the guys to make themselves a lot longer —
longer than what they would have been (had they not been double
‘I don’t take away from their
performances, I think they’re great athletes, but it’s very clear that
the guys have got very long strides.’
After his defeat, he said of the
winner: ‘Those blades are too long. We are not racing a fair race. It’s
absolutely ridiculous. We asked the organisers to address it, but it has
fallen on deaf ears.’
Pistorius is obliged to wear the same
blades that he used in the Olympic Games, whereas the athletes who are
entered only for the Paralympics can use whatever blades they like.
Elsewhere on the track last night, Great Britain’s Graeme Ballard and Libby Clegg both won silver over 100m.
Ballard, 33, who has cerebral palsy,
came second in the T36 sprint. The world record-holder could not match
his personal best of 11.98sec, set in Manchester in May this year,
clocking 12.24 behind Evgenii Shvetcov, who set a Para-lympic record of
Clegg’s parents dashed over from the
Aquatics Centre after watching their son, James, win bronze in the S12
100m butterfly to see their daughter achieve her second consecutive
silver over 100m.
Libby, 22, who has Stargardt disease,
a deteriorating eye condition, could not match her world championship
gold with guide Mikail Huggins, despite setting a European record of