The Olympics, of late, seem to have become a playground for the world’s greatest athletes to earn some hardware. With the hype surrounding Michael Phelps’ legacy and the tears of horror shed by some gymnasts after being named the second best in the world, Pistorius offers a refreshing reminder that these games are not made up solely of world class athletes, but also of some world class people.
Pistorius finished last in his Men’s 400 meter semi-final, yet was smiling the widest of anyone following the race. Born with no fibulas in his calves, Pistorius had both legs amputated below the knee when he was just 11 months old.
While growing up, Pistorius never thought him self any different than his two-legged peers.
“My mother said to us one morning, `Carl (Pistorius’ brother), you put on your shoes. And Oscar, you put on your prosthetic legs,’ ’’ Pistorius said. “And that was the last we heard of it. I didn’t grow up thinking I had a disability. I grew up thinking I had different shoes,” said Pistorius.
Now Pistorius has proven to the world that we shouldn’t think of him any different either. He finished as the 23rd fastest man in the 400 meter event, beating out 24 other competitors. Despite finishing in the middle of the pack, he did not act as if his dreams were crushed, as many other Olympians do. Instead, he was thrilled to be living out his dream of simply competing in the Olympics against able-bodied athletes.
Pistorius is blessed with an incredible talent yet seemingly cursed with the inability to use it. But his perseverance, combined with technological advances in prosthetics allowed him to realize his dream.
“Getting to that point, to be able to line up on the starting blocks at a race like that, just means so much to me,” said Pistorius.
Perhaps a result the trials and setbacks that come with being “disabled” (though Pistorius has shown there’s nothing disabling about his condition) or perhaps it’s just the type of person he is, but Pistorius has shown class and dignity that have been unmatched in recent Olympic memory. Surrounded by desire for personal glory and for gold, Pistorius has remained steady in showing just how much of an honor competing in the Olympics is, regardless of whether you have legs or not.
Other athletes are noticing the same thing in Pistorius. Upon completing the race, Kirani James of Granada, who finished first in Pistorius’ semifinal, refrained from the chest pounding and yelling many other victors resort to, and instead immediately made his way to Pistorius and asked to exchange bibs with him – essentially asking for his autograph.
James saw, just as clearly as the rest of the world, the positive impact that Pistorius has made on the Olympics. And James made it clear that this has nothing to do with legs.
“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,” said James.
“He’s a great individual — it’s time we see him like that and not anything else.”
Pistorius has shown there is more to the Olympics than than earning a piece of rock on a string. Regardless of the outcome, just getting there is victory enough.
Oscar Pistorius truly is an Olympic hero.