Posts Tagged ‘Olympics’

Oscar Pistorius“Adversity causes some men to break; others to break records” – William Arthur Ward

For every evil, there is an equal and opposite good. Although that’s not exactly what Newton meant, I’m sure he would approve of the slight modification. After an exhausting few months of Penn State and Jerry Sandusky dominating headlines, it seems right that the perfect protagonist has emerged to rebalance the scale. The South African Olympic Committee announced today that double-amputee Oscar Pistorius, the Blade Runner, will be a part of the team running the 400 meters and the 4×400 relay. In doing so, he will become the first amputee athlete to ever compete at the Olympic Games.

What this isn’t is a sappy, cloying personal interest story that NBC uses to keep non-sports fans tuned in. Pistorius has achieved something truly extraordinary, something transcendent. He has achieved something that was not thought possible – the mere suggestion that a double amputee could compete in the Olympics – in sprints – would have been laughed at before Pistorius began his ascent to the top. Most of us can wake up every day and be thankful that we can roll out of bed and land safely, if not deftly, on our own two feet. Oscar Pistorius has no such luxury. He was born without fibulae in his legs and had them amputated just below the knee when he was 11 months old. Turns out, he was fine without them because of what he was born with: more courage, determination and perseverance than most of us could ever hope to have. As Charles Portis would say, he was born with True Grit.

I can’t learn anything from him on what it’s like to live without legs. Neither can anyone else who has a fully present and functioning lower half. In fact, Oscar Pistorius hasn’t taught us anything because he hasn’t needed to. He has shown us. He has stared disability, disadvantage and sometimes disdain in the face and literally outran them. Instead of giving in to one of the most legitimate excuses we’ve ever seen in sport, he used all the tools at his disposal – toughness, skill, hard work, and yes, a little bit of science – to achieve the unachievable. Pistorius has shown us that we can overcome any obstacle, no matter how great. He has given people around the world an example to point to that directly refutes the phrase, “No, I can’t.”

It doesn’t really matter if he medals in London. In fact, he probably won’t. But if he, or the 4×400 relay team gives the performance of a lifetime, the sight of Pistorius leaning forward on his carbon-fiber blades as a medal is draped around his neck would be one of the most inspirational moments in sports history and an enduring image in the minds of anyone that calls themselves a sports fan. More than that, it would be something that disabled people all over the world could look to as a historic moment of equality, an affirmation of acceptance and an inspiration to fight on. And if he doesn’t win a medal, it really doesn’t matter. He’s already accomplished what should have been impossible.

In a world that’s cluttered with villains, criminals and miscreants like a certain prisoner in the Pennsylvania state prison system, the story of Oscar Pistorius provides a welcome relief. A 30 for 30 certainly is not far off, and I wouldn’t be surprised if a movie is in the works as well. He would probably have to play himself, because I would think the market for stunt doubles that can sprint a 45 second 400 on two blades is pretty small.

The Olympics are still a few weeks away, but I absolutely cannot wait to watch Pistorius run and represent his country. Pistorius is not a passenger on this ride, and his competitors should not take him lightly. Throughout his life, he’s shown the ability and the desire to prove everyone wrong, and no one should be surprised if he does it again in London.

Update: Perhaps Pistorius’ success brought him too close to perfection, too close to sublime – Icarus incarnate. He now awaits trial for the murder of his ex-girlfriend in South Africa. Perhaps a more appropriate quote to have begun the story with would have been from Abraham Lincoln – “Nearly all man can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.”


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