Friday, October 24, 2008

Oscar Pistorius: See us as athletes

From AFP:

MONACO — South African Paralympjcs star Oscar Pistorius pleaded on Oct. 23 that he and his fellow Paralympians should be regarded as athletes when they competed and not as handicapped people.

The 21-year-old sprint sensation, who was unable to compete in the Beijing Olympics but made up for that by winning the 400 metres, 100m and 200m at the Paralympics, said that he and his fellow Paralympians had overcome their handicap to compete at the Paralympics.

"This is my message: it is important to assess the athletes on their qualities, their capacities, not their handicap," said Pistorius, who has earned the nickname of the 'Blade Runner' because of the carbon fibre blades that have replaced his lower legs since he was 13 months old.

"It is precisely because they have overcome this handicap that they can compete at the Paralympics.

"Therefore the handicap is not a problem and should not be the preoccupying thought of the spectators."

Pistorius, known as the fastest man on 'no legs', said that was why he had fought a court battle with athletics ruling body the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) over his right to compete at the Beijing Olympics.

He won that battle but failed to qualify, and is set on competing at the 2012 Games in London.

"My goal was not to be controversial," said Pistorius, who had both of his legs amputated as a baby due to a congenital disorder.

"I always had prosthetic legs since I was 13 months old, and I didn't pose any questions when I began to use them to run in, even if they were inconvenient for everyday life.

"I was eventually able to prove that they did not give me an unfair advantage over ablebodied athletes.

"I did not enjoy that experience (the court case) but I believe that it was useful, in the battle against discrimination of handicapped athletes."