Jeff Smith 9 a.m., June 28
Long Live Pistorius
Have you heard of Pistorius? The name rings with grandeur. You might think Pistorius was a chronicler of the late Roman Republic or perhaps a great conqueror.
A great conqueror might be correct. Oscar Pistorius is a double amputee who has qualified to run the 400 meters for South Africa at the 2012 London Olympics. He was born without tibias in both legs and wears "cheetah blade" prosthetics below his knees.
The issue that keeps coming up is that it is unfair for Pistorius to compete in The Olympics--unfair to the able bodied runners. That's right, it's unfair to the athletes who have all their limbs. What gives?
The crux of the situation appears to be the weight of the running blades. They weigh about one pound each whereas a well-muscled calf weighs about 20 lbs. This allows Pistorius to have a faster turn-over than an able bodied athlete.
That is to say Pistorius can move his legs faster. This is reputed to give Pistorius an advantage and that's not fair to the other athletes.
Where does this "fair" attitude come from? There is no such thing as fair in life except that there are 24 hours in a day for everyone.
Is it fair that Pistorius was born without tibias? No.
Is it fair that people lose limbs to accidents and disease? No.
Is it fair that Kenyans and Ethiopians are born at altitude and have higher VO2 levels? No.
Is it fair that the U.S. team has a vastly larger budget and superior facilities compared to most of the world? No.
Is it fair that Sweden and Norway are covered in snow thereby producing better cross-country skiers? No.
Is it fair that China turns Olympic training into a lifestyle for its athletes? No.
Is it fair that some athletes get away with blood doping? No.
Is it fair that many people are born with endomorph bodies instead of mesomorph bodies? No.
What is fair and what isn't fair is completely arbitrary and baseless.
At mile 12 of my first half marathon I was struggling. My goal was to run the entire course and finish in under two hours. However, I had only done 10 miles while training and at 12 miles I was beginning to formulate excuses to walk for a bit before "finishing strong".
As I came around a corner, I saw a woman running with a prosthetic limb. I felt ashamed of my excuses. What had this person overcome to be here? It never crossed my mind that she had an unfair advantage over me. I was inspired by her effort and found the wherewithal to continue running for the last mile.
Based on Pistorius' best times in the 400, he won't make the finals at the Olympics. He would have been 6th at the U.S. Olympic Trials and wouldn't have made the team. Yet there are some who claim his presence at the Olympics undermines the integrity of the event.
The Olympic motto is "higher, faster, stronger." Period. Long live Pistorius.
More like this:
- You Can't Sneak On — July 3, 2012
- Minimal Torture — May 25, 2012
- She told me my arm was gone. We argued about that for five minutes. I mean, I could feel it. — July 9, 2008
- The Olympic Dream Team -- Lawyers — May 20, 2008
- Racewalking — June 9, 2005