Oscar Pistorius: I'll cherish Olympic race 'rest of my life"

Oscar Pistorius from South Africa became the first double amputee to compete in the games by running  the men's 400-meter race. He says that having the opportunity to represent his country in the Olympics "far surpassed" his expectations.

Oscar Pistorius of South Africa (or Blade Runner, as he is also called) ran in the men’s 400-meter race in London over the weekend, making history as the first double amputee to compete in the Olympic games. And though Pistorius, 25, did not medal in his event, he told TODAY’s Savannah Gunthrie Monday that his experience in London had been “phenomenal.

“When I got on those starting blocks, I knew 400 is always a tough event. But I had these cramps in my cheeks, I was smiling so much. I was a mixture of butterflies and goosebumps.”

That smile lasted about half the race, until he started getting cramps “everywhere else.” But even though Pistorius came in seventh, he said, “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.”

The Olympic games is an accomplishment for any athlete, but Pistorius had an especially hard road. He was born without fibulas (commonly known as the calf bone), and both his legs were amputated below the knee when he was still an infant. He had been fighting to compete with able-bodied athletes in the Olympics since before the 2008 games in Beijing. Though he qualified, the track’s governing body barred him from running, citing his blades, known as Cheetahs, as a competitive advantage.
Though that decision was ultimately struck down, it wasn't in time for him to compete in Beijing, so Pistorius set his sights on the London Olympics.

 His family joined him in London, the first time they were able to see him since he left South Africa in May to start the competitive racing season. And though there were supportive, Pistorius called his family’s approach to his competition “blasé.

"They’re just like, 'Oh dude cool run, you know you looked good,' or whatever. They don’t really care so much about my athletic performances as long as I’m happy and trying and doing my best.”

The Blade Runner's 89-year-old grandmother was also in attendance. “When I got chosen for the team, she phoned me and said there’s no way she’s going to miss it for the world. She came up, she had her pacemaker ordered and was in the crowd with her flag and her tears and everything.”

But Pistorius's family weren't the only ones rooting for him. After the race, fellow competitor Kirani James of Grenada turned to Pistorius, hugged him, and then asked to exchange name bibs, a poignant gesture of respect.

Pistorius had come in at 46.54 seconds, .95 of a second behind James, the winner. James said of Pistorius, “He’s very special to our sport. He’s a great individual - it’s time we see him like that and not anything else.”
Pistorius called James a “phenomenal competitor” and said that trading the name bibs was “what the Olympic spirit is all about.” 

Pistorius will be a spectator himself when he watches the final race Monday night, and he said that he doesn’t know who he’ll root for. “These are the guys I look up to for inspiration and try to chase every year, and I won’t know who to shout for. There’s just so many true gentleman on and off the field of play.”

Many spectators around the world have called Pistorius a groundbreaking Olympian, and one of the most inspirational stories of the games. But the runner said he isn't different from any other competitor in London.

"I think every athlete that’s just out here for the Olympics just does something to inspire those around them and inspire each other." 

So what was the best moment of his race? Pistorius said that it was coming down the home stretch and "hearing the roar of the crowd and knowing that there were so many people behind me just made it that much more enjoyable, and will definitely be one of the memories I’ll really cherish for the rest of my life."

Related video:
2008: Double amputee shares his Olympic dream
Amputee Olympian: Competing a 'massive blessing'
Double amputee: 'Mind-blowing' to run in Olympics


Discuss this post

Oscar is a fine example of a competitor (as are most Olympians) and a hero to the camp I atteneded just this past week in Maine. Camp No Limits is a camp for kids with traumatic or congenital limb loss and their families. We have campers with missing digits to shortened- or missing- all 4 limbs. Josh K. is looking forward to attending the Para-lympics in 4 years after missing the cut the year. Josh is missing both arms and lower legs and is a great all-around athelete. To see more about Camp No Limits, just Google it. It's a great place for kids with limb differences and there are camps in Maine, Maryland, Florida, Missouri, Idaho and California (so far) every year. Oscar was an inspiration to all the campers when we held our own "Olympics" in kayaking, runing, biking and swimming. Oscar P. should be very proud of his accomplishments and the influence he has on so many around the world.

  • 4 votes
Reply#1 - Mon Aug 6, 2012 12:48 PM EDT

He said 'pacemaker and all' not 'pacemaker ordered'....I'm not sure anyone can go around ordering pacemakers when they feel like it :)

Oscar has been this poised and mature for years - South Africans are privileged to have an ambassador who is doing so much to change people's perceptions about what is 'normal', strong and beautiful. Oscar and most of the South African medal winners this year are a proud new generation, schooled post-1994 and locally trained. This year's Olympics show how far we've come and how far we can go. Viva!

    Reply#2 - Mon Aug 6, 2012 8:17 PM EDT

    'pacemaker and all' NOT 'pacemaker ordered' :)

    Oscar is changing perceptions about what it means to be 'normal', strong and beautiful.

    He and the South African medal winners this year are a proud new generation, schooled post-1994, and the Olympics is an opportunity for the world to see how far we've come and how far we can go...

      Reply#3 - Mon Aug 6, 2012 8:29 PM EDT

      While driving to work this morning i heard a golden oldie with the line "you never know until you try." Oscar personifies that line, and in my book, that's winning. The Olympics aren't about the medals, they're about the attempt, the struggle, the drive. Mr. Pistorius has all of those in spades, and he's a true Olympic Champion. Congratulations!

        Reply#4 - Tue Aug 7, 2012 11:34 AM EDT
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