Crowd denied Oscar miracle

2011-08-30 00:00

OSCAR Pistorius may have failed to qualify for the final of the 400m in the World Athletics Championships in Daegu, but he still endeared himself to the crowded stadium and many of the athletes at the games for his determined and professional approach.

Both his performance and his ambassadorial role did athletics in South Africa proud on the third day of the championships, which also brought the team a national record, a personal best and four athletes progressing to the next round.

“I would really liked to have performed better tonight and my goal was to make the semi-final when I came out here and that I did,” said Pistorius after failing to make it through to the final of the 400m yesterday evening. “Its been a great experience, even if I’d run faster I wouldn’t have made the final — that would have taken a miracle.”

Drawn in the seventh lane with five runners with faster season’s bests, the odds were stacked against the “Blade Runner”, but a large portion of the crowd were clearly wishing for something special from the Tukkies athlete.

Rondell Bartholomew, Jamaican Jermain Gonzales and Kevin Borlee were ranked third, fifth and six in the world and favourites for the qualification, which required either a first or second place or one of two fastest losers. As this was the final heat, it was already known that anything faster than 45,54 by the third placed athlete would secure a final place. Although the time was within Pistorius’s range, there would be five others chasing the same goal.

After his usual slow start, Pistorius tried to re-open the gap on American Greg Nixon, who had made up the stagger after the first 100 m and was running on his inside.

As he came off the bend it was clear that he was running tired and lacked the power he had displayed in Sunday’s heat. He visibly tapped back and finished last in 46,19 seconds.

The games are not over for Pistorius, who hopes to use lessons learnt so far in the 4 x 400 relay on Thursday morning.

“There are people here who are performing day in and day out, it’s one thing being able to perform once off in Europe, but it’s another thing coming here and doing that day in and day out and these are the experiences I wanted to take away. You start learning at the beginning of your career and you are not finished at the end of your career, and this is just one step closer.” South Africa have acknowledged the IAAF Technical committee’s contention that giving Pistorius a running start would be an advantage and agreed only to use Pistorius in the first leg for any relay event.

Ruben Ramolefi got the day off to a good start with a bold display of front running in the steeplechase that pulled the field to the fastest qualification times in the second heat, and provided him with a new national record of 8:11,50, shaving 0,13 seconds from his previous best. Ramolefi’s performance was more impressive given the heat and humidity.

In the first heat of the 400 m hurdles, Cornel Fredericks narrowly placed second behind Britain’s David Greene, coming in 0,3 seconds behind Greene’s time of 48,52.

LJ van Zyl, who ran first in the second 400m hurdles heat, said of the crowds of kids and teachers with South African flags bedecking the stadium, “It felt like running at home out there! I think it’s the South African teachers working here”.

American Kerron Clement was first from the blocks, but Van Zyl was soon in the lead determining the race. Clement, the defending world champion, focused on Van Zyl to pull alongside, but in doing so lost his rhythm on the ninth hurdle causing him to lose rhythm and time and drop to fourth.

Van Zyl kicked again to finish first in 48,58. “I’m happy to be through, I was a bit nervous, the first round was just to break the ice and yes I’m into the semi-final,” said the current world number one.

Wenda Theron achieved a new personal best and qualification to the semi-final of the 400m hurdles. “I didn’t expect anything. I came here to run my heats as if it was my final I didn’t expect to be in the semi, now I am. That’s two goals achieved.”

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