20 Jul 2011

Blade runner Pistorius beats Olympic qualifying time

As Oscar Pistorius smashes the 400m qualifying time for the 2012 Olympics, Channel 4 News speaks to two former World Athletics champions about whether his blades are an advantage.

Blade Runner Oscar Pistorius has qualified for the London 2012 Olympics (Getty)

The 24-year old, a four-time Paralympic gold medallist, finished well clear of the field in Italy, setting a new personal best of 45.07 seconds.

Oscar Pistorius will become the first amputee sprinter to compete at the World Championships, which get under way in Daegu, South Korea, next month – and possibly the Olympics.

Speaking on Tuesday night, Pistorius said: “It was just a dream race.

“I just have not been able to sleep. I must have 300 messages congratulating me.

“I am sure tomorrow when I wake up it is going to hit me. It is really humbling to know I have gotten so much support from everyone.

“With 180 metres out, I just decided to set out for the end, and I really ran a very comfortable last 100 metres,” Pistorius said.

“It is kind of strange because I broke my personal best by half a second, which is ridiculous.”

The blade debate

In 2008 the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) ruled Pistorius could compete against able-bodied athletes.

It followed a long legal battle with the International Association of Athletics Federations over the use of his running blades, which the IAAF said gave him an unfair advantage.

Former 400m hurdler Kriss Akabusi ran the final leg in Britain’s gold medal winning 4x400m relay team at the 1991 Athletics World Championships.

He told Channel 4 News Oscar’s new personal best was a “landmark moment”.

“For a long time I couldn’t break 45.50 seconds for the 400m flat; 45.07 is a massive speed … for people who aren’t athletes it is easy to underestimate how fast this guy is running.”

Read more from Channel 4 on the Paralympics

Akabusi does not think the blades give Pistorius an advantage: “A lot of people who are not good enough might complain.

“The first person you compete against is yourself … I think the chattering classes might speak about the blades but not athletes.”

Akabusi’s relay team mate and former Olympic 400m silver medallist Roger Black agreed 45.07 seconds was “an amazing achievement” but he said it throws open the debate on whether the blades help Pistorius.

“My opinion is that because we don’t know if it’s an advantage or not, it is not a level playing field.”

Black told Channel 4 News he was “amazed” Pistorius had run so quickly but argued that we had to be “very, very careful”.

He said: “If the blades are an advantage and the next guy comes along and runs 41 seconds then that’s a problem.”

Potential Olympic medallist

UK Athletics Paralympic Head Coach Peter Eriksson told Channel 4 News he thought Pistorius could potentially medal at the Olympics.

“He can absolutely break 45 seconds, I don’t think we’re looking at a limit, it’s all up to him.

“The point is here not to look at the technology, let’s look at Oscar’s talent, his determination and his training.

“He has a lot of disadvantages: he’s missing a lot of muscle function and has had to work hard to compensate for that.”