South Africa's Oscar Pistorius becomes first amputee to compete at an Olympics, describing the occasion as 'mind-blowing'


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The Independent Online

Oscar Pistorius described his history-making run at the London Olympics today as "mind-blowing".

The South African became the first amputee sprinter to compete in an Olympics when he finished second in his 400 metres heat to qualify for tomorrow's semi-finals.

The 25-year-old, known as Blade Runner because of his carbon fibre running blades, clocked 45.44 seconds, his fastest time of the summer, to finish second behind Luguelin Santos of the Dominican Republic.

The roar which greeted Pistorius when he was introduced to the crowd was loud enough to rival that which has welcomed every British competitor.

"It was an unbelievable experience," he said. "I found myself smiling in the blocks which is very rare in the 400m. I saw my friends and family in the crowd, my 89-year-old grandmother was waving the South African flag.

"It's difficult to separate the occasion from the race because you get so much energy from the crowd. you hear a lot of athletes saying the track's quick, and I believe the track is fast, but the crowd is what's really making it that much more enjoyable.

"I still had goose bumps an hour after I raced.

"To be out here, to know that we've sacrificed X amount to achieve this, is really mindblowing."

The four-time Paralympic champion has certainly had to fight to realise his Olympic dream.

Pistorius, who had his lower legs amputated at 11 months old after being born without a fibula in either leg, won a legal battle over his blades with the IAAF in 2008, the Court of Arbitration for Sport ruling they did not give him an unfair advantage.

That debate has raged ever since, with world record holder Michael Johnson among those raising concerns recently, but Pistorius was just pleased to have made the most of his chance.

"It's one thing being here, it's another thing performing when you're here and that for me is a task I take seriously," he said.

"I had a really good race tactic today which worked well. It just shows me that my coaching staff have done a great job to help me peak at the right time.

"It was always my goal to make the semi-final tomorrow and I've been able to do so."

There was plenty of goodwill from his fellow competitors as well as the crowd.

Grenada's Kirani James, the 19-year-old world champion said: "He is out here making history and we should all respect that and admire that.

"I just see him as another athlete, as another competitor but most importantly as a human being, another person."

"I have a lot of respect for the guy and for what he does."

Santos added: "I know Pistorius was the focus of the race but I love him and he is a good racer."