GIVEN that what he is attempting to do appears as fantastical as a plot line from a science fiction film, it is perhaps fitting that Oscar Pistorius has become known as ‘Blade Runner’ in recent times.
Yet the South African’s moniker has nothing to do with Ridley Scott’s 1982 cinematic classic. His might be a tale being played out on our television screens, but the Pistorius story is one based on hard fact and real life.
The central character is the 20-year-old himself, the underpinning theme an emotive one. Pistorius is a double amputee – a young man born with a congenital condition that caused him to lose both his lower legs when just 11 months old. He is also a remarkable athlete.
So remarkable that in Paralympic sports, he has no equal. The double amputee world record holder at 100m, 200m and 400m, he has proved none who share his physical disabilities can live with a sportsman who, with characteristic humour, likes to describe himself as ‘The fastest man on no legs’. Pistorius is a man who craves challenges. He has just undertaken his greatest yet.
He has succeeded to a certain extent having received sanction to pit his talents against able-bodied athletes at an intriguing, albeit ill-fated, British Grand Prix meeting in Sheffield at the weekend.
Pistorius was disqualified, having been seen to have run outside his lane. The inclement conditions in South Yorkshire were not suited to athletic excellence and the ambitious South African departed the track drenched and dripping. Yet his determination will not have been dampened.
Olympic inclusion is the ultimate aim, although it remains to be seen whether his participation will be permitted. IAAF officials have understandable concerns and it will not be until Pistorius can prove that his Cheetahs – the futuristic J-shaped carbon fibre prosthetics upon which he is propelled – do not give him an unfair advantage will a resolution be reached. With opinion divided, it will be a complicated procedure.
It must be noted that Pistorius is not seeking such advantage and has always stressed that were he to consider that unfair benefits were his, efforts would be abandoned. Yet saying it is one thing, proving it quite another. In a sceptical world, scientific evidence will be required and the ultimate contest is one that could take place not on an athletics track but in a courtroom. It will be a contest between the emotional and the scientific. The verdict is too close to call.
It is difficult to write about Pistorius without sounding patronising, but the Pretorian must be applauded. This is a man who is not satisfied with winning, a man who is desperate for fresh challenges, a man who is fearless in all facets.
Sport needs men like Pistorius. But it can’t be that simple and the decision the sport’s administrators will soon have to make is an unenviable one. This is precedent time and athletics cannot afford to set a wrong one.
Pistorius still has some considerable hurdles to overcome – not least in striving to win over those who fear athletics’ future might lie in laboratories.
Yet it could be argued the past and present have such scientific foundations and given the sport’s perennial problems with drugs, the authorities might be better employed concentrating their attentions elsewhere. It is not so simple. Unlike the cheats who go to great lengths to disguise their methods, Pistorius is open and honest, a man with true sporting spirit and an athlete with nothing to hide.
What makes him different to the rest could not be more visible in a world of smoke and mirrors.
In some ways, Pistorius is on a hiding to nothing. Should his ultimate ambitions be achieved, there will always be an element who point to his equipment and cry foul. Pistorius was furious at the weekend when told a sceptical IAAF official had warned his inclusion could pave the way for a new generation of ‘athletes with jet-packs’.
It will get worse should he start winning. It is to his credit that does not deter a man who should be an inspiration to all – no matter what might happen.
This is a question without an easy answer. But whatever the outcome, this is a winner.