Carrying the Olympic Torch

Friday, July 27, 2012

South African sprinter Oscar Pistorious will make history when he becomes the first double amputee to take his marks alongside Olympic athletes in London. His high-tech prosthetic limbs have given him the nickname "Blade Runner." 

Another amputee has already played his part in the Olympic tradition. Stuart Hughes, a BBC producer, carried the Olympic torch through West London wearing his carbon fiber blade prosthesis. The torch recently concluded its 70-day, 8,000-mile trip throughout the United Kingdom in London.

The experience, Hughes says, was nothing short of extraordinary. 

"While it lasted, it was absolutely wonderful," he says. "I'll never be a rockstar or a superstar athlete, but that's probably as close as I'm going to get." 

Hughes was working in Iraq in 2003 when he stepped on an anti-personnel landmine, moments after stepping out of his vehicle. His cameraman, Iranian photojournalist Kaveh Golestan, set off two more mines while running to safety and was killed instantly. Hughes was flown to the U.K. to recover, and was fitted with his first prosthetic three months later. Three months after that, he was back on the job with the BBC. 

That first limb, having carried Hughes through Syria, Lebanon, Israel, and Iraq, has now earned a place in the Imperial War Museum North in Manchester's war reporting exhibit.  

Hughes says that when people approach him now, the first name he hears is the Blade Runner's. "I think Oscar's involvement in the 400 meter relay, in terms of awareness of limb loss and what's being done to help amputees, you cannot begin to tell what a difference that's made," Hughes says. 

"It felt absolutely glorious," Hughes says about his walk through West London, carrying the embodiment of the Olympic spirit. "It was a glorious day, the sun was glinting down on my Olympic torch, it all seemed to be over far too quickly, and even now, I still don't think I've come back to earth."

Guests:

Stuart Hughes

Produced by:

Robert Balint and Arwa Gunja

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