‘Blade Runner’ readies for Daegu

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‘Blade Runner’ readies for Daegu


In this Sept. 16, 2008 file photo, South Africa’s Oscar Pistorius competes in the men’s 400-meter final at the 2008 Paralympics in Beijing. [AP/YONHAP]

The city of Daegu will be crowded with world-class athletes when the IAAF World Championships begin Aug. 27.

Jamaican Usain Bolt, the world record holder in 100- and 200-meter sprints; Russian Yelena Isinbayeva, the world record holder in the women’s pole vault; and some 2,400 other athletes will test their speed, strength and endurance in Daegu for the entire world to see.

And while most athletes will be there to break records and collect medals, it’s a little different for Oscar Pistorius, who will be the first amputee to ever compete in the Worlds.

The 24-year-old runner from South Africa has no legs - they were amputated below the knees when he was 11-months-old - but will compete in Daegu with his attachable carbon-fiber blades and, he says, with his will and dream to give hope to others.

Pistorius was born with legs but without shin bones. Even after his legs were amputated, he kept himself busy with athletics as a teen, playing rugby, water polo and tennis. It’s his belief that people should be judged by their abilities, not their disabilities.


Pistorius started running in 2004 as a rehabilitation exercise for the knee he injured while playing rugby, and his carbon-fiber blades earned him the nickname “Blade Runner.”

He never looked back.

Pistorius has dominated the Paralympics, where he has four gold medals and the world records in the 100-, 200- and 400-meter races.

But while the sprinter was satisfied with his achievements in the Paralympics, he said he wanted more - to compete with world-class able-bodied athletes.

The double-amputee runner was the subject of controversy around 2007 when he was barred from competition by the IAAF because it said prosthetic legs give him an unfair advantage. But the Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled in May 2008 that Pistorius can use his blades and is eligible to compete for the Olympics and IAAF events.

After failing to qualify for the 400-meter race at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing - he didn’t meet the required time - Pistorius will be competing in Daegu in what is his first major event.

Last month in Lignano, Italy, Pistorius clocked a personal best in a 400-meter qualifier for the Worlds at 45.07 seconds, which was good enough to pass the A-standard qualifying time of 45.25 seconds.

The JoongAng Ilbo and the Korea JoongAng Daily conducted an e-mail interview with Pistorius this week to discuss the Worlds, his experience and what his future holds.

Q. Are the IAAF World Championships in Daegu something special for you?

A. I am extremely proud to be able to compete for South Africa in the prestigious IAAF World Championships. The IAAF is a world-class governing body for our sport and I am grateful to have the chance to run in their events. It will be a proud day for me when I set out on the track in Daegu and I hope to do my country proud.

The Worlds will begin in less than a month. How’s your condition these days?

I am back in South Africa training hard with my coach Ampie Louw and will return to Italy for final training, but I am feeling good and positive ahead of the [World] Championships.

What record do you want to set in Daegu? What is your specific goal?

This will be the highest-profile and most prestigious able-bodied event I have ever competed in and I will face the highest caliber of athletes from across the planet. If I manage to make it through the heats, I would be thrilled.

Many people around the world, including Koreans, have been deeply moved by your challenges and spirit. Where did you learn this spirit and who influenced you?

My parents and my grandparents always encouraged me when I was younger that I can do what I set out to do. I have worked hard to achieve my goals, but I am lucky to have a good team around me.

What do artificial legs mean to you?

I was born without the fibula in my legs and I have always worn prosthetics legs in everyday life and the Ossur Cheetah blades for when I train and compete in athletics. They are a part of me.

Some people are saying your prosthetic legs give you an advantage over other sprinters. How do you respond to that?

Some of the world’s leading scientists in this field have proven that I have no advantage when competing against able-bodied athletes and I am looking forward to competing in Daegu at the prestigious IAAF World Championships. I have seen some ill-informed comments online and I give these comments no credit at all.

We were impressed with South Africa’s beautiful nature while reporting at the World Cup last year. Is there something you know about Korea? What things do you expect from this country?

I have never visited South Korea but I hope it has a great history and culture and I am looking forward to experiencing the country.

Is it true that you don’t want to use your disability as an advantage, even refusing to park in handicapped parking spaces?

This is true - we are defined by our abilities, not our disabilities, and I don’t see why I should park in a space for someone with a disability, which means they need to use a wheelchair, when I can walk perfectly well on my prosthetic legs.

What do you do when you’re not training? Is there any sport you enjoy besides athletics?

I am interested in a lot of sports. I have played a lot of sports in my life. I am also very passionate about the two landmine projects I am involved in: “Salt of Africa” and “Mineseeker.” Patrons include Sir Richard Branson, Brad Pitt and Nelson Mandela, and I am passionate about helping people who have been sadly maimed through landmines.

I visited several projects in Mozambique and have seen the effect landmines have. We are working to provide mobile prosthetic laboratories that can visit areas affected by landmines and provide prosthetics.

What would be your final challenge and when would it be?

If I remain free of serious injury, I plan to compete in Rio [de Janeiro] in 2016 [for the Olympics]. I should be at my peak then, but for now, I am just trying to do my best in every race that I run.

Off the track, I want to do what I can to help kids with disabilities and we are working on some plans for how that may develop at the moment.

By Joo Kyung-don, Kim Jong-ryuk [kjoo@joongang.co.kr]

한글 관련 기사 [중앙일보]

[대구세계육상 D-23] ‘의족 스프린터’ 피스토리우스 단독 인터뷰

“8월의 대구, 내 생애 최고 순간 될 것”
“난 장애인 구역에 주차 안 해요 왜냐고? 난 휠체어 안 타니까”

‘의족 스프린터’ 오스카 피스토리우스(25·남아프리카공화국·사진). 그는 27일 개막하는 2011 대구세계육상선수권을 빛낼 별 중의 하나다. 그는 태어날 때부터 두 다리에 종아리뼈가 없었다. 생후 11개월 만에 무릎 아래를 절단하는 대수술을 받았다. 그 뒤론 보철 의족이 그의 두 다리가 됐다. 그러나 그는 달리기를 사랑했다. 장애인과의 대결을 넘어 비장애인과 당당히 겨뤘다.

 피스토리우스는 지난달 20일(한국시간) 이탈리아 에서 열린 국제육상대회 남자 400m에서 45초07을 기록해 이 종목에서 대구세계육상선수권에 출전할 수 있는 기준기록을 통과했다. 장애를 가진 선수가 올림픽이나 세계선수권 대회에서 비장애인과 경쟁한 적은 없다. 피스토리우스는 불타는 도전정신으로 육상 역사에 한 획을 그었다.

 남아공에서 훈련하고 있는 피스토리우스를 e-메일 인터뷰했다. 그는 훈련 시간이 부족하다며 방문 인터뷰 대신 e-메일 인터뷰를 요청했다.

 -대구세계육상선수권은 당신에게도 매우 특별한 대회가 될 것 같다.

 “권위 있는 대회에서 조국 남아공을 위해 뛸 수 있어 기쁘다. 대구에서 달리는 날은 내 삶에 있어 가장 자랑스러운 날이 될 것이다.”

 -컨디션은 어떤가.

 “현재 남아공에서 코치와 훈련 중이다. 이탈리아로 건너가 마지막 훈련을 할 예정이다. 느낌과 컨디션 모두 좋다.”

-대구에서 어떤 기록과 역사를 남기고 싶은가.

 “전 세계에서 가장 뛰어난 선수들과 겨룰 기회다. 그들과 경쟁해 살아남는다면 정말 짜릿할 것이다.”

-당신의 도전정신에 전 세계 사람이 큰 감동을 받았다. 도전정신은 어디에서 배운 것인가.

 “나의 부모님과 조부모님은 열심히 준비한다면 무엇이든 할 수 있다고 나에게 항상 용기를 불어넣어 주셨다. 내 노력도 중요했지만 내 주위에 항상 좋은 조력자들이 있었다는 것은 행운이다.”

 -당신에게 의족은 어떤 의미인가.

 “의족은 내 몸의 한 부분이다.”

 -의족이 달리는 데 오히려 도움이 된다는 시각도 있었다.

 “세계 최고 과학자들이 의족이 비장애인 선수들과 경쟁할 때 큰 도움이 되지 못한다고 밝혀냈다. 인터넷에서 악성 코멘트들을 봐 왔지만 전혀 신경 쓰고 싶지 않다.”

 2008년 스포츠중재재판소(CAS)는 피스토리우스의 의족이 기록 향상에 월등한 이점이 있다는 명백한 증거가 없다고 판결했다. 하지만 2009년 미국 와이오밍대의 매슈 번들 교수는 “피스토리우스는 의족 덕분에 400m에서 최소 10초 이상을 줄였다. 보철 다리가 지면 마찰력을 줄여주고 근육 활용량을 감소시켜 15∼30% 정도 속도에서 이득을 본다”고 주장하는 등 논란은 여전하다.

 -장애인 구역에 주차하지 않을 정도로 장애인 특혜를 받는 것을 싫어한다고 들었다.

 “사람은 장애가 아니라 능력으로 평가받아야 한다. 난 의족으로 걸어 다닐 수 있다. 휠체어를 타는 사람이 이용해야 할 장애인 구역에 주차할 필요를 느끼지 못한다.”

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