Emotional 'Blade Runner' slices through to semis


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The Independent Online

For Oscar Pistorius, it was always going to be a day of high emotion.

"It was just an unbelievable experience," the Blade Runner said, reflecting on his momentous appearance as the first double-amputee to compete in the Olympic track and field arena. "As I came out of the tunnel, I saw my friends and family, including my grandmother with the South African flag. On the blocks, I didn't know whether I should cry or be happy."

Considering all Pistorius has endured in his 25-year-old life, controlling his emotions was never going to be an insurmountable task. And so it proved.

Drawn in lane six in heat one of the men's 400m, the great Paralympian ran an assured race, tracking the form man in the field, Luguelin Santon, into the home straight and finishing a comfortable second in 45.44sec. With the first three guaranteed to progress, Pistorius made it into today's semi-finals with room to spare.

His toughest task was making it through the "mixed zone" area off the track where the post-race television, radio and written press interviews are conducted. It took him an hour to get through the television and radio area.

"Thank you so much for waiting, guys," he said after finally reaching the press. "I couldn't have hoped for anything better. My goal was to make the semi-finals tomorrow and I've been able to do so.

"It was very difficult to separate the occasion from the race because you get so much energy from the crowd.

"You've heard a lot of athletes saying the track's quick. I believe the track is fast but the crowd is what is making that much more enjoyable.

"Just being here is a tremendous experience. I've always said it's one thing being here it's another thing performing when you're here. It was task that I took seriously. I want to represent my country well. My goal was to make the semi-final and I've done that."

It was more than LaShawn Merritt managed to do. Running in heat six with his left thigh heavily strapped, the defending champion struggled to get round the first bend and pulled to a halt before the 200m mark.

All this after the American's case promoted the Court of Arbitration for Sport to drop the International Olympic Committee's bar against returning doping offenders.

"I thought that I could get through the first round not 100 per cent," he lamented.