A Great Moment in the Olympics: Double Amputee Competing in Running

July 28, 2012
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Oscar Pistorius of South Africa, a double amputee.     Source: Wikimedia Commons, Erik van Leeuwen.

 

 

Oscar Pistorius of South Africa, a double amputee.     Source: Wikimedia Commons, Erik van Leeuwen.

I am watching the opening ceremony of the London Olympic. In true British fashion, they are taking us through a re-enactment of British history and culture. Here is the queen accompanied by none other than 007. And Mr. Bean playing the organ. And what a surprise, here is a whole segment performed by doctors and nurses in tribute to their nation’s proud achievement: the NHS, the National Health Service. Are Americans watching?

Overall, joyful and instructive, even impressive in its emphasis on civic accomplishments (remember the militaristic display of the bejing Olympics?).  But to tell the truth, it didn’t rise to inspirational levels.  What does inspire a sense of awe in this Olympic is Oscar Pistorius of South Africa, a double amputee, entering the 400-meter and the 4×400 meter relay races. Amazing triumph of the human spirit.

As “The Scientist” reports, South African Oscar Pistorius was born with congenital absence of the fibula, meaning he lacked the crucial calf bone altogether, and at 11 months old, doctors amputated both his legs below the knees. But equipped with carbon fiber blades as prosthetics, Pistorius, also known as “Blade Runner” or “the fastest man on no legs,” has grown into a world-class track star. Last year, he made history when he qualified for the world championships and took silver in the 4×400-meter relay. This year, he’s got his sights set on an Olympic medal.

As Pistorius told the USA Today  “I am so pleased that years of hard work, determination, and sacrifice have all come together.”

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Moments like this renew our faith in the human spirit. Theologians, Philosophers, scientists have been arguing for hundreds of years what makes our species unique. Are we deity-created beings? Is it our capacity to think ( “I think, therefore I am”)?, Is it our cerebral cortex and over-developed prefrontal cortex? None of the above. It is the human spirit that carries us out to the outer boundaries of the possible, both physical and mental.

The opening day of the 400-meter heats is August 4. Pistorius is expected to draw the most attention to a track-and-field event since Usain Bolt, the Jamaican sprinter who took home three gold medals from the 2008 Summer Games in Beijing. And no wonder. It is not our interest in track and field only. It is our admiration for a member of our species showing us all what we are capable of.