Oscar melts the hardest of hearts

2012-08-04 19:17

‘Blade Runner’ vindicates his selection and makes the semifinal

Oscar Pistorius went to the Olympic Games in the shadow of controversy as he had failed to fulfil the mandatory two A-standard qualification criteria set by the South African athletics authorities.

This was in the wake of most of the local athletes who ran single standard times being left behind to watch the Games on television.

But yesterday, South Africa celebrated in unison when the man known as the “Blade Runner” cut the field in his heat down to size when he recorded the second-fastest national 400m time – and booked a place in the Olympic semifinal tonight (8.40pm South African time).

He ran an Olympic qualifying time of 45.20 in March during the provincial championships for Gauteng North.

Arriving in London midweek, Pistorius said: “If I had to listen to 5% of the negativity rather than the 95% of people who supported me, I wouldn’t be here.”

And yesterday the 25-year-old endeared himself to the world with a grand entrance on the Olympic stage when he churned out a 45.44 time for a second place finish before 80 000 spectators at the Olympic Stadium.

“I’ve never run in front of such a big crowd in my life ... my grandmother (who is 89 years old) was also out there today,” he said afterwards as he emerged into the media “mixed zone”, accompanied by his publicist Kate Silvers.

She was carrying his fibre blades in a bag similar to a golf bag.

He continued: “This is a special occasion and one gets so much energy from the crowd. It was a mind-blowing experience for me, especially since I had such butterflies two days before the race. Still, my goal was to make the semifinals tomorrow.”

Pistorius kept the packed print and electronic media zones waiting as he had to change his blades for prosthetic legs to get up the staircase and address the press.

“Thank you, guys, for your patience,” he said when he eventually pitched, as all sorts of recording devices, from cellphones to tape recorders, microphones and notepads came a few centimetres short of being shoved into his mouth.

Jamaican runner Jermaine Gonzales ran in a different heat but he was well placed to comment as he raced Pistorius in the final at the world athletics championships in South Korea last year.

“I am so happy for him. Oscar is such a friendly guy and I don’t have a problem with him in the Olympics. I wish him all the luck in his future events.”

Pistorius is also part of the 4x400m relay team together with Ofentse Mogawane, Shaun de Jager and Willie de Beer.

Aside from De Jager, Pistorius, Mogawane and De Beer won silver at the world champs last year and their quest for glory in the Olympics begins on Thursday.

On Friday, 400m hurdlers LJ van Zyl and Cornel Fredericks failed to go beyond round one.

Fredericks finished last in his heat in a time of 52.29 while Van Zyl came home in sixth place in a time of 50.31.

The country had pinned its hopes on a medal in the hurdles but the dream soon faded.

Said Van Zyl: “It has been a nightmare for me. I am not the same as last year. I had a knee injury on my right leg at the beginning of the year and it was a tough Olympic build-up for me”.

The 27-year-old Tuks Athletics runner lost his South African title to Fredericks in Port Elizabeth in April.

This was on the back of a national record of 47.66 and a world championship bronze medal less than 12 months ago.

Fredericks, who finished fifth at the same world championships in South Korea, said he had been hoping for more in London, but his body let him down.

“I’m obviously disappointed as I had set high expectations for myself. I wanted to get to the final.

“But when I went over the first hurdle, I felt a pop in my right hamstring.”

The Western Province runner said there was still a lot to take home after his dreary debut.

“The atmosphere at the stadium was unbelievable. The facilities in the Athletes Village are world- class and we couldn’t have asked for more.

“I’m going home to rest now and hope to come back better next year.”

Team SA – Who to watch today


Women’s marathon:
René Kalmer, Irvette van Blerk and Tanith Maxwell (from 12pm)

Men’s 400m semifinals:

Oscar Pistorius (8.40pm)

Men’s 100m semifinals at 8.45pmand finals at 10.50pm:

Usain Bolt, Yohan Blake and Asafa Powell (all Jamaica); Tyson Gay (the US); Dwain Chambers (Great Britain). They’ve all qualified for the semifinals.


South Africa vs Pakistan (11.45am)

» TV schedule is according to SA time

» Follow @DanieMothowagae and @City_Press for more on London 2012

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