Robin Scott-Elliot: Who is the fastest man on blades? It's a question to relish

The Way I See It

There is nothing in sport to match the Olympic final of the men's 100m. It is the event, the very essence of sporting competition shoe-horned into less than 10 furious seconds – who can run the quickest? Who is the fastest man on the planet? It is a simple question and to answer it you need nothing but a pair of legs.

Which, of course, is what Oscar Pistorius, Jerome Singleton, Jonnie Peacock, Blake Leeper and Arnu Fourie do not have. Between them the five men, two Americans, two South Africans and a Briton, can muster three legs. The missing limbs, all seven of them, have been replaced by blades, two for Pistorius and Leeper, one each for Peacock, Singleton and Fourie. What they have is different, but what they are is no different from the men who lined up at the top end of the track in London's Olympic Stadium 22 nights ago.

That was the fastest field ever assembled for sport's headline event. It was a race, it was an occasion, it was drama and it was exhilarating to be in the stadium, pulse-quickening, grinning excitedly at Chinese and German colleagues – the excitement of the moment requiring no translation.

When next week Pistorius and the rest come to their marks at the top of the same track there may not be quite the same frisson of excitement as was stirred by Bolt and Co among another audience of 80,000 people but this will be a race to relish, the quickest field ever gathered at a Paralympic Games.

The final of the T43/44 class 100m to determine the fastest man with no legs.

That is not a term any of them would care to recognise. "Recognise the ability, not the disability," is how Singleton, the American who is the current world champion, prefers to put it.

The first time I met Pistorius he told me a story of his time at boarding school in South Africa, where one night his friends hid his prosthetic limbs, poured lighter fuel on his metal bedside locker and set fire to it. Pistorius awoke to yells of "fire! fire!", tumbled out of bed and was scrabbling around on the floor desperately looking for his legs as his friends raced out of the dormitory desperately trying not to laugh. They did not, I suggested, sound much like friends. Pistorius's response was that sure, it was a brutal joke, but what it meant was that they were treating him like they would each other; they saw him not as a boy with missing legs but as an equal, whom they tackled as hard on the rugby field as anybody else.

Pistorius has been accepted in his sport, despite initial attempts to bar him by the authorities, and is a hugely popular figure too – witness Kirani James, the brilliant young Grenadian who won the Olympic 400m, swapping name tags with him after the semi-final – but sport, as well as being about pure athletic achievement, is what it is because of the scripts, storylines and narratives that surround it. The 100m final begins with a display of strutting and preening to make a peacock blush; it's part of the drama. The Premier League is the world's best sporting soap opera; it attracts superlatives and spite, produces brilliance and bile and it is never safe to miss an episode.

These five men have scripted a compelling drama of their own which possesses the potential to match anything we have seen in this most memorable of sporting summers (although yet more rain on final day could be ruinous). First, and most obvious, is how they look on the track. Here come the men in blades. Channel 4 has branded Paralympians "the Superhumans" and to watch Pistorius run it is difficult to reach any other conclusion. Look at your own legs, imagine the physical act of how you run and look at what he is doing.

Pistorius is the favourite to retain the 100m title he collected in Beijing but is no longer seen as unbeatable. Singleton inflicted a first defeat in seven years at the 2011 World Championships, while Fourie got the better of his compatriot in the South African trials. Leeper equalled Pistorius's world record mark of 10.91sec at a meeting in Canada in July, but only days earlier Peacock, a 19-year-old from Cambridge, had broken it. Watched by Leeper and Singleton, Peacock ran 10.85sec as a guest at the US trials.

It is an event that is getting quicker again – Pistorius's mark stood for five years – and, unlike the Olympic 100m, it is an event that is wide open. It may well require a world record to win it. It is sport to savour, sport to quicken the pulse again – a universal language, no translation needed.

Arts and Entertainment
The cast of The Big Bang Theory in a still from the show
tvBig Bang Theory filming delayed by contract dispute over actors' pay
Sport
England celebrate a wicket for Moeen Ali
sportMoeen Ali stars with five wickets as Cook's men level India series
News
Morrissey pictured in 2013
people
News
peopleGuitarist, who played with Aerosmith, Lou Reed and Alice Cooper among others, was 71
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
High-flyer: Chris Pratt in 'Guardians of the Galaxy'
filmThe film is surprisingly witty, but could do with taking itself more seriously, says Geoffrey Macnab
Life and Style
food + drinkVegetarians enjoy food as much as anyone else, writes Susan Elkin
Life and Style
lifeDon't get caught up on climaxing
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe), Hermione Granger (Emma Watson) and Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint)
newsBloomsbury unveils new covers for JK Rowling's wizarding series
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

Commonwealth Games

David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star