Oscar inspires at London Olympics

6 August 2012

Oscar Pistorius exited the Olympic 400 metres after finishing last in his semi-final on Sunday night, but the South African, the first double-amputee to participate in the Games, was a winner in many ways.

Running in the second of three semi-final heats, with the first two finishers in each race and the next two fastest losers progressing, Pistorius made the slowest start of any of the 24 men in the semi-finals. He failed to make any impact after that, his usual stronger second half of the race absent on this occasion, and trailed home in eighth place in a slow 46.54 seconds.

The mostly British crowd, however, cheered him as if he was one of their own.

Kerani James, the reigning world champion in the event, won the heat in 44.59 seconds. Showing his support for and friendship with Pistorius, he swopped race bibs with him, while other athletes gathered around to shake the South African’s hand.

‘An inspiration for all of us’

Later, James said of Pistorius: “He’s an inspiration for all of us. He’s very special to our sport. He’s a great individual. It’s time we see him like that and not anything else.”

Running on his prosthetic limbs, consistency is something that Pistorius struggles with, and unfortunately he was sub-standard on Sunday evening. He was, however, far from disappointed.

Afterwards, he wrote on Twitter: “I’d just like to thank everyone who has been supportive, tonight’s Olympic Semi-final was a dream come true for me! I am truly blessed!”

A quick glance at Pistorius’ Twitter account on Monday morning revealed some pretty high-profile fans from the world of show business, including Samuel L. Jackson, Denise Richards, Mario Lopez, and Piers Morgan.

NBC, the USA’s official Olympic broadcaster, ran a feature on him. The prestigious New York Times ran a photo of Pistorius that dominated the newspaper’s front page.

Pistorius will be in action again with the South African 4×400 metres relay team. Round one takes place on Thursday and the finals on Friday. Last year, at the IAAF World Championships in Daegu, South Korea, the South African team won a silver medal in the event.

Women’s marathon

Three South African women contested the marathon, which was hit by rain.

Rene Kalmer showed up well in the early going and went through the halfway mark only 10 seconds behind the leading group in an hour, 13 minutes and 23 seconds. She, however, found the second half of the race more challenging and dropped off the front-runners.

Ethiopia’s Tiki Gelana ran on to victory in an OLympic record of two hours, 23 minutes and 12 seconds, with Kenya’s Priscah Jeptoo claiming the silver medal and Russia’s Tatyana Petrova Arkhipova the bronze.

Kalmer crossed the finishing line in 35th place in 2:30:51, just 52 seconds off her career best time.

Tanith Maxwell found the race a real struggle and ended 81st in 2:40:27, while Irvette van Blerk failed to finish.

Hockey thriller

At the Riverbank Arena, the South African men’s hockey team duelled with Pakistan in a nine-goal thriller during which the two teams were never separated by more than a goal. Ultimately, though, the Pakistanis grabbed the winner only minutes from the end of the contest to secure a 5-4 victory.

An all-action first half produced six goals as the teams went into the break at 3-3.

Thornton McDade put the men in green and gold into an early lead, with a goal in the second minute. It took until the 20th minute for Pakistan, a three-time Olympic champion, to level matters through Abdul Haseem Khan.

South Africa quickly hit the front again as Justin Reid-Ross sent a penalty corner rocketing into the top of the net. In slightly more than a minute, though, Pakistan had drawn level through Shafqat Rasool.

Less than two minutes later the deluge of goals continued as Abdul Haseem Khan put Pakistan ahead for the first time.

On the stroke of half-time, Reid-Ross levelled the scores at 3-3, with another penalty corner goal.

Second half

Shortly after the restart, Wade Paton struck for South Africa, making it 4-3 in favour of Gregg Clark’s charges.

It took Pakistan almost 27 minutes to level, with captain Sohail Abbas, their long-time penalty corner specialist and the highest scorer in the history of international hockey, slotting the equaliser.

Only six minutes remained on the clock. Unfortunately for South Africa, Pakistan found a winner three minutes from time through Waseem Ahmed.

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