Today at the Games: Pistorious and Smyth in great shape to get the golden feeling
Visually impaired Irish sprinter and famous South African in action over the weekend
It's Oscar time again. Three weeks after he took his leave of the main stage at London 2012, Oscar Pistorius will be back on the track in the Olympic Stadium tonight, opening the defence of his three Paralympic sprint titles in the T44 200 metres heats.
The 25-year-old Blade Runner blazed a ground-breaking trail at the London Olympics, as the first double amputee athlete to compete in an Olympic Games. He reached the semi-finals of the 400m and ran the anchor leg for the South African team that finished eighth in the final of the 4 x 400m relay.
In doing so, Pistorius gained the kind of global recognition that has led to him following in the footsteps of Jessica Ennis into the pages of The Beano. After the Olympic heptathlon champion found herself immortalised in the comic as "Ennis the Menace" – and today she will have a stand named after her at Bramall Lane, home of Sheffield United – the Blade Runner is to be featured as the cartoon figure "Oscar Victorious Pistorius".
"I don't consider myself a trailblazer," Pistorius insisted. "I have never done it to prove a point. I have always been in sport to be the best that I can be. I have always had more pressure from myself than from anyone else or anything I have felt externally.
"I am one of the many athletes in the Paralympics who show what Paralympic sport is really about. Gone are the days when it's just inspirational. It's hard-core sport. It's professional and it's full of triumph and disappointment. To be part of that Para movement makes me very, very happy."
Pistorius intends to live up to his new comic-book name in at least two of the three events he will contest in the London Paralympics. He will start as clear favourite for both the 200m – the final of which takes place tomorrow night – and the 400m but not for the 100m, with the British world record holder Jonnie Peacock and the American world champion Jerome Singleton to contend with.
"I've got my work cut out in the 100m," Pistorius acknowledged. "Jonnie and Jerome are 100m specialists. Jonnie will have the home crowd, which will either help him over the line or put a lot of pressure on him. Jerome was the first guy to beat me in seven years in the 100m.
"It's going to be very interesting but very tough for me. The 100m is not really my thing. I was moving away from it even in Beijing four years ago.
"I ran my first 100m race in 16 months last weekend. I ran 11.1sec into quite a strong headwind. I have to be realistic and say the 200m and 400m are the events I am probably better suited at,"
Pistorius would not have been the only London 2012 veteran at these Paralympics had the Irish sprinter Jason Smyth not been just short of the Olympic qualifying standard for the 100m. The 25-year-old visually impaired runner is also in action tonight, defending the T13 100m title he won at the Beijing Paralympics in 2008.
Smyth has spent the past three winters training in Florida in the same sprint group as Tyson Gay, the American 100m record holder. He has a personal best 100m time of 10.22sec and has reached the semi-finals at the last two able-bodied European Championships.
"I'm in very good shape," he said. "These last few weeks' training have been excellent. I'm as good as I ever have been, so now it's a case of getting out and putting it down on the track."
Smyth was diagnosed with the degenerative eye condition Stargardt's Disease as an eight-year-old.
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