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Making His Mark
David Epstein
April 04, 2011
Is Blade Runner back on an Olympic track?
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April 04, 2011

Making His Mark

Is Blade Runner back on an Olympic track?

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The blink of an eye now separates sprinter Oscar Pistorius of South Africa from an automatic berth in the 2012 London Olympics, and all the controversy that will bring. On March 23, Pistorius, known as Blade Runner for his two crescent-shaped, carbon-fiber prosthetic lower legs (he was born without fibulas), ran the 400 meters in 45.61 seconds in Pretoria, South Africa, just 0.06 of a second behind the likely automatic Olympic qualifying standard.

Pistorius, 24, first ran in an able-bodied pro track race in 2007, taking second. That Pistorius, unlike able-bodied runners, sped up late in the race raised questions about the fairness of his prosthetics. The governing body of track and field, the IAAF, commissioned a study, which determined that Pistorius's blades returned energy more efficiently than human legs. But Pistorius appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), and—with seven scientists he enlisted presenting evidence—was granted the right to aim for the 2008 Games. He fell short of the qualifier in '08 and instead ran at the Paralympics, taking three golds. A year later, two of the scientists whose report had vindicated Pistorius admitted that they had withheld data showing that the lightness of the blades gave him an unfair advantage. But the adjudication process was final. With Pistorius seemingly set to make the 2012 standard, he is sure to keep delivering both inspiration and controversy.

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