Simon Williamson

South Africa wins the Olympics

2012-08-10 07:10

Simon Williamson

Watching the Olympics in the USA is quite something, as each and every day America wins a glut of medals, with some days so packed the evening prime time delayed coverage doesn’t even cover all of them.

 Just on Thursday alone, the US won gold and silver medals in the men’s decathlon and triple jump, gold in women’s basketball, volleyball and middleweight boxing, while taking silver in women’s 10km swimming marathon and a bronze in men’s <68kg taekwondo.
And the Yankee media rightly praises its athletes, in this country that is highly proud of its sportsmen and sportswomen. But there is one athlete who has garnered attention throughout the games, eclipsed in devotion by perhaps only Michael Phelps, and that man is South Africa’s Oscar Pistorius.
South Africans have followed the Pistorius story from the beginning. We saw him race in the 2008 Paralympics, and, for the most part, joined his side as he tried to qualify for the Olympics, through the courts and through qualifiers. And we clinked our glasses when he qualified to go and represent South Africa in the 400m at the Olympics in London.

Well, America didn’t really follow this whole story all so closely. And Pistorius’ first race, the 400m qualifiers on Saturday, absolutely set the airwaves on fire. Folks here were astounded that a double-amputee was running alongside folks with two legs, and then went on to beat a few of them and qualify for the semi-finals (where he ultimately lost).

Attention was still heaped all over Pistorius when Kirani James, the eventual gold medal winner, swapped shirt numbers with Pistorius after the semi-finals, giving everyone even more opportunity to gush all over again. Which, incidentally, temporarily drowned out the chorus of people whinging that the athletes with two full legs were disadvantaged against the chap with two halves.
ABC, Huffington Post, Washington Post, NPR and AFP all shouted that Pistorius “made history”, while CNN and NBC called him an inspiration. He was also on the Today Show, the USA’s top rated breakfast programme. He was on the cover of the New York Times, and USA Today went so far as to say that he even inspired US servicemen and servicewomen, who usually act as the inspiration for everyone else in America.
But it wasn’t just the media who went on about him. Twitter exploded. US swimming medaller Ryan Lochte called him “one inspiring individual” while he achieved praise from people as disparate as Denise Richards and Jim Ross (of World Wrestling Entertainment fame). Pistorius can add to his CV praise from Samuel L Jackson, Sinbad, Piers Morgan, one of the Jonas Brothers (I can’t tell them apart), David Boreanaz and more.


Off the internet machine I had numerous conversations with American folks about our none-legged runner, with an age range of 20 to 70. According to Google Trends, six of the top ten cities that have search on Google for “Oscar Pistorius” in the last 30 days are American, and one is Canadian.
It has been awesome to see the inspirational Oscar Pistorius work his way into the hearts and minds of people around the world. His effect now reaches far past South African borders.
And in fact it was ESPN that summed it up best for me, after our athlete’s 400m semi final: “Oscar Pistorius finished 8th in the 400-meter semifinal. For many, he won before the Olympics even started.”

Simon Williamson is a freelance writer.

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Read more on:    olympics 2012  |  oscar pistorius

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