Double-amputee sprinter clocks 45.07 to guarantee his major champs selection
‘Bladerunner’ Oscar Pistorius tonight took another great leap towards achieving his goal of competing in able-bodied global championships when he smashed his lifetime best and dipped well inside the qualifying standard for the Olympic Games and World Championships.
Competing at the Grand Prix meeting in Lignano, Italy, Pistorius clocked a PB of 45.07 to win by more than a full second ahead of Commonwealth 200m silver medallist Lanceford Spence of Jamaica.
It was more than half a second faster than his previous best and comfortably inside the 45.25 ‘A’ standard required to guarantee his spot on the South African team for this year’s World Championships and next year’s Olympic Games. It came right in time too, as tonight was his final chance of getting the qualifying mark.
Earlier this year Pistorius clocked 45.61 which made him just one of five South African athletes to dip inside the ‘B’ standard. According to IAAF rules, each country are only permitted to send one athlete with the B standard per event, so there was no guarantee that the double amputee would have been selected ahead of his team-mates.
Pistorius has long aspired to become the first paralympic athlete to compete at the IAAF World Championships and the Olympic Games, but given the unique nature of his case, the IAAF were concerned that he may gain an advantage from his J-shaped carbon-fibre prosthetics – the source of his ‘Blade Runner’ nickname – and in 2007 put a ban on the use of such technical devices.
After conducting studies on Pistorius in races, in January 2008 the IAAF ruled that his prostheses were ineligible for use in competitions conducted under the IAAF rules. But soon after Pistorius took the case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, who reversed the IAAF’s ban, clearing the way for him to compete at the London 2012 Olympics and this year’s World Championships.
With his 45.07, there is now nothing standing in the way of Pistorius lining up against able-bodied athletes at the next two major global championships. The performance puts him at equal 15th on this year’s world lists and such a time could also see him not just an also-ran in Daegu, but as a strong contender.
The event has been somewhat lacklustre this year with Jeremy Wariner struggling for form and no one else stepping up to dominate. The world-leading mark is just 44.65 and sub-45-second runs have almost become a rarity on the circuit.
“Feels kind of surreal to have an A-qualification time in the bag for next yrs Olympic Games! Thank you all the your support!” Pistorius said tonight on twitter. “Can’t sleep I’m so happy. Just want to thank Ampie (Louw, coach) and Seb for all their hard work with me. Means a lot to me!”
Elsewhere in Lignano, Yelena Isinbayeva’s return hit a small blip as she failed at her opening height of 4.60m in the pole vault. The Russian superstar last week opened her summer season with a 4.60m clearance in a rain-soaked Belgium and had hoped to go higher tonight in Italy, but it was not to be.
Team USA were out in force and won several of the events, but most impressive was their dominance of the women’s 800m. Americans filled the top six spots with five of them dipping under two minutes. The race was won by the in-form Morgan Uceny – winner of her last two 1500m Diamond League races – and she clocked a PB of 1:58.31 from Alice Schmidt (1:58.61, also a PB).
USA also won both sprint relays, and in the men’s race a full-strength team comprising Trell Kimmons, Mike Rodgers, Justin Gatlin and Walter Dix sped to a world-leading 37.90. A team made up of Bianca Knight, Jessica Young, Lauryn Williams and Barbara Pierre won the women’s race by default in 42.45 as the two opposing stronger teams – one of which included Carmelita Jeter and Allyson Felix – failed to finish.
35-year-old Khadevis Robinson won the men’s 800m in 1:44.45 – his fastest for four years – while Jamaica’s Steve Mullings dipped under 10 seconds with 9.98 to win the men’s 100m.