Oscar Pistorius, the usually smiling South African, has come across as embittered and petty today.

Pistorius probably has a point, but he didn't kneed to make it today

A quick recap. Overnight, the South African “Blade Runner” became the fade runner. Pistorius had won the T44 200m at the last two Paralympics, but was mowed down in the final few metres. He then sharpened a few blades of his own.

The South African, who also competed at the London Olympics, claimed that his conqueror, Brazilian Alan Oliveira had an unfair advantage due to oversized carbon blades which allow a greater stride length.

As anyone who saw Usain Bolt at the London Olympics knows, superior stride length helps make a fast athlete super fast. Despite being slowest out of the blocks, Oliveira made giant strides in the straight as he gradually overhauled his rival.

Pistorius wasn’t happy. He has been jousting with the International Paralympics Committee over the issue of prosthetic limb heights for some time, and it’s pretty clear he has a good case.

There are strict controls over the height of prosthetic limbs, which basically state that the knee height should correspond with the height an athlete’s knees would be if they had legs. Those rules are seemingly being flaunted by the Brazilian and others, in what may or may not be deliberate bad sportsmanship.

But you know what? None of that matters, and here’s why.

The simple fact of the Paralmypics which everyone is far too polite to mention is that you’d need about 7,0000 different classifications in order to line up every single athlete on the proverbial level playing field.

There are six disability categories in the Paralympics, which are then broken up into classifications on a sport by sport basis. These come close to providing truly uniform competitive conditions for athletes. Really close, but not quite close enough.

It simply is not possible to make the Paralympics perfect. In some events, athletes win because their disability is a little less severe, a little less limiting, not because they have bigger hearts and pectoral muscles.

This whole 11 day sporting festival is not about Citius Altius Fortius, but about cheering for people whose lives are unimaginably tough to most of us.

As we are constantly reminded, the triumph of any Paralympian is just to compete, not to wind up on a podium. If that happens, it’s a bonus. Pistorius of all people should know this, and that’s why he should have remained silent today.

The second, blindingly obvious reason why he should have refrained from comment is that he was invited to run at the Olympics a month ago on what at best was a technicality. That the IOC let him run was not a celebration of humanity, but a bid to ward off a potential public relations nightmare.

As the beneficiary of such a magnanimous decision by sports administrators, Pistorius would have done well not to question his Brazilian rival’s IPC-approved prosthesis.

Pistorius has since done the very 2012 thing and apologised profusely on Twitter. Just two hours ago he wrote “Congratulating Alan of Brazil for his 200m win.. The fastest last 80m I have ever seen to take it on the line.”

No whingeing, no hard feelings. Bet he wishes he played it that way first time around.

Comments on this post will close at 8pm AEST

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    • fairsfair says:

      01:30pm | 03/09/12

      I can’t believe he has been allowed to compete at BOTH. I think it is fantastic he got to compete at the other Olympics but to be allowed a run at BOTH is very strange. He should have been excluded from joining the Paras if he completed at the able bodied meet.

      You can’t have your cake and eat it too.

    • iansand says:

      02:24pm | 03/09/12

      One thing is completely clearr.  The dude has truncated legs, so he can compete at the Paralympics.  Why, if he is good enough and the prostheses offer no advantage, should he not compete at the Normie Olympics?

    • fairsfair says:

      03:54pm | 03/09/12

      I have no objection to that Iansand - if he is fast enough - good for him, but he shouldn’t be allowed to compete at both.

    • year of the dragon says:

      05:07pm | 03/09/12

      It seems, based on his own argument, that, at best, the question as to whether or not the prostheses offers an advantage is unanswered.

      Either way, a remarkable athlete.

    • iansand says:

      05:43pm | 03/09/12

      Why not, fairsfair?

    • fairsfair says:

      06:51pm | 03/09/12

      Because he should have to decide where he wants to concentrate. He either sticks with the paralympics and remains at the top of the heap or he transfers to the normies and competes to make the final.

      You can’t in any other avenue in life where you have the choice to compete in two separate leagues. You can’t let Ricky Ponting play for Australia A and win a world cup as the best in the team and then be in the Australian team and be an average player in a team that doesn’t make the finals. You either qualify for one or the other. It is not fair for him to have two separate avenues to compete when no other athletes have that same option.

      Even before he blew up over this I couldn’t believe he was at the Paras. He just got to run at the other Olympics and now he gets to run at these too? It just doesn’t at all seem like equality.

    • Little Joe says:

      07:45pm | 03/09/12

      @ iansand

      Totally agree!!! But how do we determine when prostheses offer advantage?? How do we determine when there is mechanical advantage?? How do we determine competitive advantage where an athlete could have won their race if they were given the same equipment??

      The question has been raised with the swim suits, but now that these world records are being broken was the advantage that significant.

      It was never raised in 1984 when the USA Pursuit Cycling Team had carbon fibre bikes!!! No issue there!!! It could have been raised with Cathy Freeman’s running suit in 2000 ..... again no issue!!!.

      Even in London you may have noticed that some rowing teams had different oar blades.

      I am not saying that athletes should do a ‘Abebe Bikila’ but maybe standardising equipment could level the playing field.

    • M says:

      01:33pm | 03/09/12

      “As we are constantly reminded, the triumph of any Paralympian is just to compete, not to wind up on a podium.”

      It wasn’t all that long ago that the same was true for regular olympians too.

    • Shep says:

      07:19pm | 03/09/12

      God…. You are SOOO right.  When did it sll go so horribly and tackiy wrong!

    • Gavin says:

      01:35pm | 03/09/12

      He should never have been allowed in the regular Olympics. The blades are a clear advantage as he will never suffer from a sore Achilles, twist an ankle or any of the many injuries that can happen to lower legs.

    • fairsfair says:

      01:50pm | 03/09/12

      It swings both ways Gavin - he is susceptible to infection and issues with his stumps and chafing from prosthesis is not something that able bodied athletes will ever contend with. It should be based on times alone and the technology in the blades graded to ensure that they are not offering advantage. Much like the controls on those silly swimming suits. I say props to the guy for achieving what he has done, but it is highly hypocritical (as Ant has pointed out) for him to cry unfair treatment when he got to play at both games.

    • Smurf Silva says:

      01:52pm | 03/09/12

      @ Gavin:

      No, instead they have to deal with ongoing skin issues, tissue proliferation, loss of nerve sensation and lumbar disfiguration. You’re right, those blokes without legs have it easy compared to us that do…

    • Gavin says:

      02:34pm | 03/09/12

      The problem is you will never fully know if it is an advantage or not. The blades to me look totally unatural and the stride looks different from that of an able bodied athlete. Almost like cartoon kangaroo shoes or something.

      And me - ill take a skin complaint over a ruptured achilles any day.

    • AFR says:

      03:08pm | 03/09/12

      Gavin, are you suggesting you would rather not have legs?

    • iansand says:

      03:22pm | 03/09/12

      The fact that Whitehead (? English bloke) was well behind on the turn in the 200, and then powered through when he got his blades working suggests to me that there is a mechanical advantage.  If there was no advantage you would expect reasonably constant speeds through the whole race.  Being able to wind up suggests advantage.

    • Ando says:

      04:03pm | 03/09/12

      “It should be based on times alone and the technology in the blades graded to ensure that they are not offering advantage”. Has it been? How was it done? Who would we compare his times with?

    • Gavin says:

      04:58pm | 03/09/12

      No, what I’m saying is that I would have a better chance of winning a race if had blades on than my own legs.

    • Gavin says:

      04:59pm | 03/09/12

      No, what I’m saying is that I would have a better chance of winning a race if had blades on than my own legs.

    • wolf says:

      05:17pm | 03/09/12

      Whenever this comes up, I keep thinking of a book called Limbo by Bernard Wolfe:
      Go all out. Give all our paralympians super strength cyborg limbs, or failing that let them use every piece of tech at their disposal short of drugs. Oscar should add 50cm to his legs and SMASH the current world record for any type of athlete.
      Sure it will turn the whole thing into a bit of a freak show, but then thats exactly how many people see the able bodied olympics anyway.

    • Mahhrat says:

      01:37pm | 03/09/12

      Cheating’s cheating.

      To me you cheat not just when you blatantly break the rules, but when you intend to abuse the spirit of the rules to gain an advantage.

      Having “slightly less” disability and winning…that’s good luck, much like Usain’s height is good luck for Usain.  He didn’t intend for his height to be an advantage for him, it just works out that way.

      Did the winner of that race intentionally extend the length of his blades to gain an advantage?  That’s cheating.

      I don’t see what’s complicated.  If you intend it, it’s pretty much cheating.

    • marley says:

      07:15pm | 03/09/12

      But how can an observer, or an official, ever know the intention?  That’s what’s complicated, and why I don’t have a lot of time for the paralympics.  Categorisation, decisions - way too subjective.

    • Tim says:

      01:48pm | 03/09/12

      As I said in the OT this is LOL funny.

      Oscar Pistorius whinging about the prosthetic legs of his competitors after losing the 200m at the Paralympics.
      The same guy who said the prosthetics weren’t an advantage when he wanted to run in the normal olympics.

    • Flutz says:

      07:25pm | 03/09/12

      His prosthetics are NOT an advantage in comparison to an able-bodied athlete, the same as Alan’s prosthetics are not an advantage in comparison to an able-bodied athlete - however Alan’s prosthetics MAY provide him with an advantage over the prosthetics of other double leg amputee athletes

    • Gordon says:

      01:53pm | 03/09/12

      Just from the photo it looks like longer blades on shorter stumps. In other words his knees ARE pretty much where they would be if he had legs. I’m sure some IPC wonk has whipped out the tape measure and slide rule anyway. IF having more blade and less leg is a technical advantage then Mr Blade Runner has one over the boringly belimbed runners in the ortho-lympics

    • TheRealDave says:

      03:07pm | 03/09/12

      I watched as South Africa ran in the 400m at the Olympics to see how this bloke would go. What I saw instead was Oscar throwing his hands up in disgust and stomping around like a petulant 9 year old who’s just been told he isn’t getting anything for Christmas when his team mate fell and hurt himself. Not once did he even go to see how his team mate was or anythign else that a team mate might do when another needs help. No, it was all about Oscar.

      So he lost today - screw him. Typical whinging Saffa.

    • Achmed says:

      04:01pm | 03/09/12

      The rules are the rules and if they allow oversized blades then so be it.

      Anyway, after the initial reaction it sounds as if Oscar realised that he didn’t have a leg to stand on.

    • Ausy says:

      04:53pm | 03/09/12

      Just give everyone a medal and we can all get on with out lives.

    • Porter says:

      04:58pm | 03/09/12

      I read somewhere that he also complained that the American, Blake Leeper had longer blades as well, even though he beat Blake Leeper.  Doesn’t really seem like that much of an advantage.

    • Jeremy Smith says:

      05:03pm | 03/09/12

      “...he didn’t kneed to make it today…”

      At a time when the Paralympics invites us to look beyond disability, some boneheaded subeditor can’t resist highlighting that very thing.

      Come on Punch, you can do better.

    • Anthony Sharwood

      Anthony Sharwood says:

      05:53pm | 03/09/12

      Guilty as charged

    • stephen says:

      05:21pm | 03/09/12

      So many classifications is the reason why there are so many variables in the paralymics, which is a kind of a turn-off for viewers, because in sport as in life, a winner is chosen only under the auspices of a level playing field.
      (Having said that, I’m not sure that there is any such thing as a ‘level playing field’.)

      But I’m enjoying these Games more than the earlier ones because I know that these folk aren’t shirkers and none are here for a holiday or a swansong. They take their sport seriously, and it’s great to watch.


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