31 August 2011
After making history by becoming the first athlete with a disablity to qualify for an able-bodied World Championships, South Africa’s Oscar Pistorius left a huge impression in Daegu, South Korea.
The 400 metre runner had qualified for the event at the last possible opportunity by running a personal best time of 45.07 seconds in Italy in June.
However, despite his fine performance in achieving the A-qualifying standard, Pistorius was not expected to progress beyond the heats, but, as he has done so often before, he proved his doubters wrong.
Running in the outside lane in his heat, he turned in the second-best time of his career, clocking 45.39 seconds to secure a spot in the semi-finals.
South Korean support
Already a popular figure among Korean fans, Pistorius was loudly cheered by the locals, who had taken him on as one of their own. Even before the start of the event, South Korean President Lee Myung-bak paid a visit to the athletes’ village and met Pistorius.
With the 14th-fastest qualifying time out of 16 for the semi-finals, the “Blade Runner”, as Pistorius is known, was given lane seven in his semi-final. Unfortunately for him, a poor start set him back and he failed to get into his stride, finishing last in the event, but making a massive stride for athletes with disabilities.
After the race, Pistorius was somewhat disappointed, but spoke with his customary humility, saying: “I would really like to have performed better tonight. My goal was to make the semi-final when I came out here, and that I did, and it’s just been a great experience.
“I think even if I had run faster tonight, I wouldn’t have made it to the final. It would have taken a miracle for that to happen and I’ve got a lot of respect for the guys that made the final.
‘A great oportunity’
“It’s just been a great opportunity to come out here and I’ve learnt a lot from this experience,” he added. “The IAAFs is a phenomenal event and being one of the athletes to be able to come out here has just been a huge blessing.”
Asked by Jacaranda FM DJ Darren Scott whether he would like to participate in both the London Olympics and Paralympics, Pistorius said: “I would like to. I’ve run one qualification time for the Olympics and I need to run another time next year, I think between January and June, but I’ve first got to qualify for the Paralympics.
“I’m extremely excited about that and I think I’ll be running the 100, 200, 400 and then for the first time the 4 by 100 in the Paralympics, so I’m extremely excited about that.
“I think we’ve got a great year coming up and there’s a lot of hard work [ahead] to prepare for both of those [events] next year.”
Top South African performers
While South Africans have failed to land any medals in Daegu, there were other promising and excellent performances by Team South Africa athletes during the first three days of competition.
Ruben Ramolefi, competing in the 3 000 metres steeplechase, turned in the second fastest time in the qualifying rounds of the event. His time of 8:11.50 was also a national record.
LJ van Zyl and Cornel Fredericks continued the rich tradition of South African 400 metres hurdlers by qualifying for the final of the event after both claimed second places in their semi-finals.
Wenda Theron, running in the women’s 400 metres hurdles, bowed out in the semi-finals, but managed a personal best time of 56.13 seconds in the heats.
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