South Africa’s Oscar Pistorius made history when he was chosen to participate in track and field in the Olympic Games despite having two artificial legs. He pushed the boundaries even further when he ran his way to the semi-finals in Heat 1 of the men’s 400-meter race on Saturday, finishing in 45.44 seconds to come in second place.
While his time of 46.54 seconds during the semi-finals on Sunday didn’t secure him a spot in the final, his performance has both inspired fellow athletes and fans, and drawn criticism from others.
Paralympic long jump silver medalist John Register reacts to Pistorius’s performance and what it means for people with disabilities and the future of the Paralympics.
"First of all, when you're looking at that, it's kind of a comical to me. I would say that the [athletes] that he beat think he has an advantage. The ones that the didn't, don't," he says.
"Most of us think of him as having some type of disadvantage because of his disability. You have to remember that Oscar, pretty close to birth, had artificial limbs. That's all he's known." Pistorius has been running on the same pair of prosthetic legs for seven years, including his races in London.
The controversy stems from allegations that the prosthetic legs, or "blades", give Pistorious an unfair advantage over runners with two functioning legs. A 2009 study found that because Pistorius' blades are lighter than human legs, he can swing them 15.7 percent more quickly than the average speed of five past able-bodied world-record holders. According to the research, the sprinter runs a 400m race 10 seconds faster on blades than he would if he were running on legs. That's a huge difference in the world of sprinting.
For Register, it all comes down to the work ethic that Pistorious has shown. "Oscar might not get shin splints, but the other athletes don't have to worry about getting stump sores. They don't have to worry about one of the sockets twisting the wrong way during a race," he says. It just shows what people can do if they're just given the chance to do it."
While Pistorius' quest for an individual medal is over, he will take his marks one more time as one of South Africa's participants in the men's 4x400m relay.