‘Blade Runner’ Pistorius shares limelight with Bolt in Korea

2011-08-29 00:00

OSCAR Pistorius provided the star performance of the first two days at the World Athletics Championships in Daegu, South Korea.

The Tukkies man created history by being the first double amputee to compete at World Championship level and he debuted with style by placing third in his heat in the 400 m in 45,39 seconds, his second-best performance over the distance.

Running blind from lane eight he closed on the over-enthusiastic Femi Ongunde from Qatar, then pulled level with Britain’s Martyn Rooney and 2010 Indoor champion Chris Brown on the second bend.

“The guys seemed to slow a bit on the bend, which gave me some confidence, and then for the last 40 metres I just looked to keep the three of us together. I was pleased with the consistency of the my race.”

Brown took the line in 45,29, while Rooney set a season’s best in 45,30 with Pistorius running 45,39. Only his qualifying 45,07 in Italy in July is faster.

Although happy with the performance Pistorius knows how big a step the final would be. “I’ve looked at the times. I’ve got to be realistic. I’m going to have to run as consistently as today and match my best to make the final.”

With the other South Africans failing to progress past their first rounds, Pistorius offers some light both on and off the field where the 24 year old has earned the respect of the athletes and the hearts of the spectators.

“He ran the time to get here. He’s a great person with a great personality. He’s dedicated, motivated and he doesn’t quit. He works hard and I wish all the best to him,” said LeShawn Merritt, the defending champion who returned from a 21-month drug sentence to set the world’s leading time of 44,35 seconds in the third of the five heats.

A magnitude of his appeal is that the media corps delayed Pistorius by over an hour on his return to the change rooms with interviews.

Usain Bolt is the only athlete to exceed that after the 100 metre final two years ago in Berlin.

The first South Africans in action were Rene Kalmer and Annerien van Schalkwyk in the marathon, which was won with a historic cleansweep by Edna Kiplagat and her Kenyan team-mates Sharon Cherop and Priscah Jeptoo, with only Ethiopia’s Aberu Kebede able to hold on to their slipstream. Kiplagat put in a 16:11 for the final five kilometre split to cross the line in two hours, 28 minutes, 43 seconds, with Jeptoo closing the podium in 2:29:14.

Van Schalkwyk’s solo effort took her to a 2:43:59, while Kalmer’s determination melted in the heat over the final quarter finishing 31st in a credible 2:38:16.

“It was erratic — the pace picked up for every water table, then slowed. It was my second competitive marathon,” said Kalmer. “It was a brave run I went with the front guys then from 25 km I was basically in no-man’s land. My plan was to go out at 2:35 pace, which is what I basically did. It was just the last 12 km that I battled.”

Ex-Durbanite Colleen de Reuck finished directly behind Van Schalkwyk in 2:44:35. At 47 the South African Olympian, now running for USA, was the oldest in the field by ten years. The Kenyan 1-2-3 rewarded them with the World Cup team trophy, but it was a tight battle for lower places with only one minute 24 seconds separating second-placed China, from fourth-placed Japan. Ethiopia was third.

“In South Africa everyone is for themselves. We don’t have camps, we train alone; you don’t have that partnership with one another,” said Van Schalkwyk. “I’m a team player so it would suit me. If we want to do something (in London 2012) then we have to run as a team,”

Multiple national champion on road and cross-country Stephen Mokoka could not make any impression on the class 10 000 m field that delivered one of the most exciting distance races of recent years.

Mokoka was never a danger in the race. The Ethiopians, led by Imane Merga and the Kenyan, traded the lead until Zersenay Tadese took control for the final third. With three kilometres remaining, Britain’s Mo Farah moved forward, and with 600 m remaining the diminutive runner put in a kick to lead through the bell.

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