Athletics: Oscar Pistorius salutes 'amazing' London at golden farewell
Monday 10 September 2012
It was only fitting that Oscar Pistorius should have the last word. "The summer has been a dream come true," the original Blade Runner said after bringing down the curtain on another spectacularly successful sporting show in Stratford with a suitably golden moment on Saturday night. "Lord Coe and his team at Locog have done the most amazing job.
"Their attention to detail has made this the most phenomenal and successful Olympic and Paralympic Games. I think the world has finally seen that Paralympic sport is truly elite. It has performances that are really worth supporting and worth getting to know the athletes for. It's been a humbling blessing to be here."
For many of us, it has been a surreal experience, sitting in the main London 2012 arena watching the Paralympics, like the Olympics before them, surpass all expectation. There have been the 80,000 sell-outs for every session of the athletics programme, morning and evening for nine successive days, making it a record 1.5 million for the Games.
One minute the 80,000 have been booing George Osborne. The next they have been chanting the name of a 19-year-old amputee from Cambridge.
On Saturday night, they were rising to acclaim Pistorius. Running in the very last race on the Olympic and Paralympic track, the 25-year-old South African was a class apart as he retained the last of his remaining individual Paralympic titles.
He did so in style, winning the T44 400m in 46.68sec, finishing comfortably clear of his nominal rivals. Blake Leeper of the United States was a distant runner up in 50.14sec.
Up to that point, the London Paralympics had been a particularly mixed experience for Pistorius. He went into the Games as the face of Paralympism, the household name who had crossed over into mainstream track and field with his appearance on the Olympic stage, where he reached the semi-finals of the individual 400m and ran in the final of the 4 x 400m relay.
Then came the loss of his 200m title to Alan Oliveria and his complaint that the Brazilian was gaining an unfair advantage with the length of his blades. Relinquishing his 100m title to Britain's Jonnie Peacock was less of a shock than the dent caused to his public image by the temporary losing of his rag.
Any doubts about Pistorius' standing, however, were drowned in the rapturous reception he received from the public on Saturday. "It was very special to me," he said. "It was my last event of the season, the last event of the London 2012 Games.
"It was the 11th time I was able to come out on the track and I just wanted to end by giving the crowd something they would appreciate. I was very nervous before the race but the crowd kept me going. "
Pistorius, of course, was not the only Olympian competing in track and field at the 2012 Paralympics. Ilke Wyludda, the 1996 Olympic discus champion, finished ninth in her specialist event last Wednesday and fifth in the F57 shot on Saturday with a throw of 10.23m, a personal best.
The 43-year-old German had her right leg amputated in December 2010 after developing septicaemia. "I think I can be an inspiration for all people who have had some kind of stroke of fate and are looking for a path back into life," she said. "I think I have done that. I have shown that you can do it. Life goes on."
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