Tal Cohen / EPA
Oscar Pistorius of South Africa, left, and Alan Fonteles Cardoso Oliveira of Brazil shake hands on the podium after the Men's 200-meter final during the London 2012 Paralympic Games on Sunday. Pistorius apologized Monday for the timing of his complaints about a rival's blades following his defeat in the final, but insisted that officials need to change the rules to prevent some runners from getting an unfair advantage.
Updated at 6:15 a.m. ET Tuesday: LONDON - “Blade Runner” Oscar Pistorius -- the unofficial face of the Paralympic Games -- was clearly still reeling Monday after losing a key race over the weekend.
Pistorius issued an apology for “the timing” of his remarks, which in essence accused race winner Alan Fonteles Oliveira from Brazil of not playing fair. But the usually mild-mannered South African did not step back from his statement alleging that Sunday’s race was not run on an even playing field.
On Tuesday, some in the British media speculated whether he had already tarnishing his image. "If Oscar had run the time he can run I don't think we'd be having the debate about the length of the blades or how tall an athlete should be on blades," Gareth A Davies of the Daily Telegraph said on the U.K.'s Channel 4 News.
"I think his outburst kind of ruined in a sense, or destroyed the Pistorius brand," Davies said.
"He's running faster backwards now than he runs forward, (isn't he) with his retractions," anchor Jonathan Edwards joked.
The 200-meter final was the Paralympic race Pistorius had said he was looking forward to the most, and his shock at losing was palpable. Simply put, he was the one to beat. In Saturday’s qualifying heat, Pistorius had set a new world record. He’d won the gold in the 200 meter in Beijing.
Doctor Gerry Versfeld, Oscar Pistorius' doctor, describes the decision to amputate the sprinter's legs when he was a boy. NBC Sports' Mary Carillo reports for Rock Center.
But then came Sunday night’s race, and his stunning loss.
“We are not running a fair race here. I can’t compete with Alan’s stride length,” said Pistorius, who made Olympic history this year as the first disabled athlete to run in the able-bodied games. Pistorius himself fought claims that carbon-fiber prosthetics are advantageous when compared to human legs.
In front of a sold-out stadium Sunday night, the 24-year-old South African had a clear lead coming around the final bend. Then Brazil’s Oliveira surged in the final stretch, passed Pistorius, and won the race by .07 seconds.
"I don't know how you can come back, watching the replay, from eight meters behind on the 100 to win. It's absolutely ridiculous," Pistorius told British broadcaster Channel 4 in a trackside interview.
South African runner Oscar Pistorius, who lost both his legs as a child, talks with TODAY's Savannah Guthrie about becoming the first double amputee to compete in the Olympics, and says it was "difficult" to hear people say his prosthetics give him an unfair advantage.
His comments jarred with the fact that he has said that this year’s Paralympic Games have led spectators to “focus really on the ability” of the athletes, rather than “focusing on the disability.”
Usually known for his modesty and good sportsmanship, Pistorius accused Oliveira of having an advantage by adjusting the length of his blades, thus giving the Brazilian a longer stride.
"The [International Paralympic Committee] have their regulations. The regulations allow that athletes can make themselves unbelievably high. We've tried to address the issue with them in the weeks up to this and it's just been falling on deaf ears,” he said on Channel 4.
Pistorius’ remarks reverberated through the sporting world.
“I’m quite shocked the way Oscar had a bit of an outburst because it’s not in his character, so obviously he feels very strongly that the rules need to be addressed,” Olympic silver medalist sprinter Iwan Thomas said on Channel 4. “But as we sit here tonight the rules are as they are and [Oliveira’s] done nothing wrong.”
Eddie Keogh / Reuters
The blades of Brazil's Alan Oliveira (R) and South Africa's Oscar Pistorius are seen after the Men's 200m T44 classification at the Olympic Stadium during the London 2012 Paralympic Games on Sunday.
Thomas did not hold out much hope that Olympic authorities would change their decision.
“I don’t think they’re just going to suddenly tear up the rule book just because Oscar said something. Although he’s the king of the sport, rules are there and it probably takes a long process to get things looked at,” he said.
Indeed, the International Paralympic Committee defended its rules by tweeting a photo showing the maximum heights allowed for individual athletes, and showing Pistorius at a height of 193.5cm and Oliveira at 185.4cm.
“There are rules in place with IPC Athletics whereby we measure the length of the blade prior to competition, check they're in proportion with the body and all of the athletes last night passed the test, so yes, he (Oliveira) was a legitimate winner,” IPC representative Craig Spence said.
Sorry for ‘timing’
On Monday, Pistorius stuck by the essence of his post-race comments and did not step back from his complaint.
He said in a statement:
“I would never want to detract from another athlete's moment of triumph and I want to apologize for the timing of my comments after yesterday's race. I do believe that there is an issue here and I welcome the opportunity to discuss with the IPC [International Paralympic Committee] but I accept that raising these concerns immediately as I stepped off the track was wrong. That was Alan's moment and I would like to put on record the respect I have for him. I am a proud Paralympian and believe in the fairness of sport. I am happy to work with the IPC who obviously share these aims.”
Meanwhile, Team South Africa and SASCOC (South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee) issued a statement welcoming Pistorius' apology.
Oscar Pistorius from South Africa became the first double amputee to compete in the games by running Â the men's 400-meter race. He says that having the opportunity to represent his country in the Olympics "far surpassed" his expectations.
"We note and welcome Oscar's apology for anything said in haste, and we obviously fully understand that he was emotionally upset immediately after such an important event here in London. We again congratulate Oscar on winning his silver medal on Sunday. As always we are fully supportive of all our athletes and will engage through the official channels from the National Paralympic Committee in South Africa to the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) on any concerns that Oscar may have."
They’ll meet again
Oliveira, who called Pistorius a “great athlete,” said he was saddened by the South African’s reactions.
“I am just sad with the interview where he said my blades were too big” Oliveria said. “He was bothered by my time in the semi-finals and he wanted to get to me with his polemic but it did not work. For me he is a really great idol and to hear that from a great idol is difficult.”
Pistorius and Oliveira are on course to meet again in round one of the 100 meters on Wednesday and round one of the 400 meters on Friday. Assuming they both make those finals, they will race again at the 100 meter final on Thursday and the 400 meter final on Saturday.
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