Sunday, May 31, 2009

Oscar Pistoius retains his title as fastest amputee in the world

From The Times in the UK:

Oscar Pistorius remains the fastest amputee sprinter in the world, but only just, after a near rerun of the Beijing Paralympic 100 metres final saw him catch Jerome Singleton on the line at the BT Paralympic World Cup in Manchester May 24.

Pistorius, the South African, and Singleton, his American rival, both 22, looked uncertainly at each other after crossing the line. Pistorius appeared to have just caught his rival and was confirmed as the winner in 11.13sec, with Singleton 0.03sec behind, exactly the same margin as in Beijing.

“I wish they would stop calling it being ‘pipped’,” Singleton said. “He just beat me again. He got me again. It’s fine but I do find it inspirational because he helps me run faster.” There was no indication of whether a lean-looking Pistorius is in good enough shape to qualify for the 400 metres at the World Championships in Berlin in August, because he had only two hours to prepare for his race yesterday. Tired and on a slow track, with no serious opposition, he ran 50.28sec. That is four seconds outside his best and nearly five outside the time, 45.40sec, that his coach says South Africa Athletics have told him Pistorius needs to qualify for the team going to Berlin. The B standard set by the IAAF is 45.95sec.

“I’ll look at that time and think, ‘Can I make the qualification?’ ” Pistorius said. “Let’s be honest, it was shocking. I think that’s the slowest time I’ve run in 3½ years. But then the 100 metres was one of the best times I’ve run in a year. And my first 400 metres race last year was almost as bad as this. Normally I get two to three days to concentrate on a race, here I had an hour. The 100 was the focus today. Jerome is an amazing 100 metres athlete; I knew if he wasn’t here, I wouldn’t have run as fast as I did today.”

Pistorius, who has been training for only five weeks after an accident in a speedboat three months ago put him in hospital with broken ribs, eye socket and jaw, admitted to feeling sick with nerves before the start of the 100 metres. “I was very nervous because a month and a half ago I didn’t know if I would be up to running here,” he said. “I felt sick before the race today because I was sure he was going to beat me. He made me play catch-up again. I only knew I’d won about five minutes afterwards.”

In Paralympic categories, Pistorius, as a double amputee, is classed as a T43 and more disadvantaged than the T44 single amputees, such as Singleton. But Pistorius makes up for his lack of propulsion out of the blocks on his carbon-fibre blades with his exceptional speed and balance after the first 50 metres. In Beijing he had to come from six metres, here it was more like three.

Pistorius’s 400 metres form will become evident in the next few weeks as he heads to the European circuit. “I think in two or three weeks, I’ll feel much more comfortable,” he said.

“I’ve no doubt I am going to run a personal best this year. I’m staying in Europe until the end of September and I think for the first time in my five years on track, I won’t have the distractions of flying up and down.”

It was a mixed day for Britain on the track. David Weir, the double Paralympic gold medal-winner in Beijing, won the 400 metres wheelchair race, beating Marcel Hug, from Switzerland, who had beaten him in the 800 metres two hours before. But Shelley Woods, Britain’s best women’s wheelchair racer, was surprisingly off the pace in coming third behind Tatyana McFadden, of the United States, in the 800 metres and 1,500 metres.