Just Don't Call Him Special

A double amputee sprinter from South Africa is set to compete against the world's fastest men in attempt to make it to the Olympic qualifying meet. No, not the Special Olympics, the real ones.

LONDON — Oscar Pistorius, a double amputee who races on carbon fiber blades attached below his knees, will get a chance to prove himself against some of the best runners in the world.

The 20-year-old South African will run the 400 meters at the Norwich Union Grand Prix in Sheffield, England, on Sunday in a field that includes Olympic champion Jeremy Wariner of the United States. Also entered are American Darold Williamson, a former Olympic relay gold medalist; Australian John Steffensen, the Commonwealth Games 400-meter champion; and Angelo Taylor, former 400-meter Olympic hurdles champion.

This is an absolutely amazing story, both in terms of human perseverance and drive and just how far we've come technologically. Oscar has set records in the Paralympics but wasn't satisfied and now wants to be among the best in the world -- and that means competing head-to-head with the best able-bodied athletes there are. And he's got a shot to beat some of them... and possibly make the Olympics.

The guy has run a 46.56 in the 400m sprint. That's insanely quick. Anybody who has ever run track in high school or college knows that breaking 50 seconds in the quarter-mile is a special feat and that if you ever got under 46 seconds you could easily consider yourself a world class elite sprinter. Oscar, despite having no legs below the knees, has reached that level. As an athlete with a sense of my own mortality and back-of-the-mind fear of permanent injury, I love stories like this. I often wonder if something was to happen to me in which I lost a limb or became paralyzed, would I still get up each day and find a way to continue biking or hiking or being active? Would I continue to push to improve myself physically like Oscar (or, more applicably, Brett Wolfe) or would I just sit in the corner and pity myself?

Read more about Oscar in today's Seattle Times here.

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