I believe there are very few people who are extraordinary enough to be labeled a “hero”. Certainly, those who save or help others such as firefighters, police officers, paramedics, or medical pioneers qualify for the honor but often times, those society has deemed as being a “superstar”, “celebrity”, or “hero” gain admiration purely from their good looks, acting ability, or because they made the winning goal at the big game.
In 2007 I heard about a South African athlete, Oscar Pistorius, the world record holder for sport class T44 in the 100, 200 and 400 meter events. At the time when I first saw his name in the news, he was training to qualify for the 2008 Beijing Olympics despite the protests of individuals who believed he had an “unfair advantage” over other athletes – or at the very least, that he may harm someone if he ran amongst a pack of other sprinters. So what makes Oscar Pistorius so different from other athletes? Pistorius is a double amputee who sprints using Cheetah Flex-foot carbon fibre transtibial artificial limbs – thus his nickname, “The Bladerunner.”
In March of 2007, the IAAF changed competition rules thus prohibiting Pistorius, and other individuals using prosthetics, from competing with “able-bodied” athletes stating in its amendment that was to include “any technical device that incorporates springs, wheels or any other element that provides a user with an advantage over another athlete not using such a device.”
Pistorius didn’t concede and in 2008 competed in a series of scientific tests revealing that although he may be advantaged on straightaways, he was disadvanted at the starting block and around turns. Pistorius appealed the IAAF decision in court and the appeal was upheld.
Pistorius never did qualify for the Beijing Olympics but continued to train during the years that followed. Just a few weeks ago, on July 4, 2012, Oscar Pistorius received word that he had earned a spot on the South African Olympic team and would be the first athlete in history to compete not only the Paralympics, but the Olympics, as well. His first event is slated for August 4th when he will begin participating in 400-meter heats.
His elated tweet that followed this announcement read:
Will be in @London2012 for both the Olympic and Paralympic Games! Thank you to everyone that has made me the athlete I am! God, family and friends, my competitors and supporters! You have all had a hand!
Oscar Pistorius is a hero on many levels. What others may have seen as a disability, he clearly saw as a challenge. He overcame adversity, worked endlessly, and fought for what he believed was merited not only himself, but for other physically challenged athletes that deserve the right to compete right along side “able bodied.”
There are other heroes in the story of Oscar Pistorius, as well. His parents, Henke and Sheila Pistorius, deserve an vast amount of credit for the success of their son. I can only believe that in light of his incredible accomplishments, his parents have always been at the sidelines cheering him along - not only at the running track, but in life as well.
So, come August 4th, I will be watching television and reading tweets – waiting to hear news of triumph. But I guess in my eyes regardless the outcome, he’s already a champion.
Oscar will be competing in the 400 meter and 4 x 400 relay at the 2012 London Olympics.
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