Oscar Pistorius made history at the London 2012 Olympic Games by becoming the first double amputee to compete on the track and make an Olympic final.
The South African sprinter arrived in London with the aspiration of qualifying for the semifinal of the individual 400m competition and he did so in style. Oscar competed in the first heat on Saturday 04 August and had a strong race to finish in second position in a time of 45.44s, his second fastest time of the year. The result qualified Oscar for the semifinal.
After the race, Pistorius said: “It’s one thing being here and another thing performing here… My goal was to make the semifinal tomorrow. I’ve worked for six years and to come out here today was just an unbelievable experience. I found myself smiling in the starting blocks. The roar of the crowd and knowing that there were so many people behind me just made it that much more enjoyable, and this will definitely be one of the memories I’ll really cherish for the rest of my life.”
In the semifinal Oscar had a slower start than in his heat and against a strong field he finished in eighth place in a time of 46.54s. Grenada athlete Kirani James, who would go on to become the 400m Olympic champion, made a point after the race of approaching Pistorius and asking to swap bibs, which Oscar described as true Olympic spirit.
“The whole experience was mind-blowing,” Pistorius said. “My aim was to make the semifinal. It’s a dream come true. Kirani is a phenomenal athlete and it was a privilege to swap bibs with him, it’s what the Olympics spirit is all about.”
Oscar’s focus then turned to the 4x400m relay with the South African squad. The heats on the morning of August 9 were a rollercoaster experience, with the Nigerian team being disqualified from the competition after a collision with Ofense Mogatwane who was racing on the second leg for South Africa. Oscar Pistorius and Willie de Beer, ready on the third and fourth legs, never received the baton.
After the South African management appealed the squad were reinstated in the competition and given lane one out of nine lanes in the Olympic final.
The following evening Oscar and his teammates Shaun de Jager, LJ Van Zyl and Willie de Beer competed against a world class field with Oscar on the anchor leg, finishing in eighth place in the Olympic final.
Reflecting on his Olympics, Oscar said: “It’s something I will definitely remember for the rest of my life. It’s been absolutely phenomenal. There may have been 70,000 people in the stadium but to me it felt like 170,000. The noise, the support from the fans and the media, having my friends and family there in the stadium with me each day, it truly was one of the best weeks of my life, it has been such a blessing for me.
“It’s taught me a lot. I’ve been inspired by so many athletes. Just to have had that opportunity to step outside, I’m sure in a week I’m going to have the same emotions that I’m going to have in 40 or 50 years’ time.”
Having made history, Oscar was then chosen as the Flagbearer for South Africa for the Closing Ceremony on Sunday and he will return to the Olympic Stadium at the end of this month for the Paralympic Games, where he is the defending champion in the 100, 200 and 400 meters in his class. The South African team are also targeting the world record and Paralympic title in the 4x100m relay, which Oscar will be part of.