South Africa’s Oscar Pistorius competes in the 400-meter semifinals heat, Sunday, August 5, 2012. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
Call these Olympics “a tale of two Blade Runners.” Blade Runner was of course the classic 1982 Ridley Scott film about a dystopic future in the Los Angeles of 2019. Twenty twelve Olympic London is giving Mr. Scott’s vision a run for it’s money. Away from the high-def cameras and soft panning shots of Big Ben at dusk is a city that’s making Blade Runner look quaint. Not even the fevered minds of Scott and author Philip K. Dick imagined surveillance drones, gunships and surface-to-air missiles in residential neighborhoods.
But there is another Blade Runner on the scene at these games and it would be terribly myopic to disregard its importance. This would be the man known as “the Blade Runner” Oscar Pistorius. The 400-meter track star from South Africa made the Olympic semifinals before being knocked out of competition on Sunday night. But Pistorius already made history by becoming the first double amputee to compete at the Olympic Games. His journey to these semi-finals was far more arduous than the race itself.
Pistorius was born without fibulas and had both legs amputated below the knee before his first birthday. The 25-year-old used prosthetics from the time he could walk and was raised to see “putting them on” as no different than his older brother Carl’s putting on his shoes. He was a dominant Paralympic runner and qualified for the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Enter the IAAF, the world governing body for track and field. They ruled, stunningly, that prosthetic legs constituted a “competitive advantage” for Pistorius. This is only logical to someone who thinks The Six Million Dollar Man was a documentary. Pistorius is not “bionic.” His world-class speed is in fact particularly remarkable given that his carbon fiber prosthetics requires him to start from a vertical position that always makes him the slowest off the blocks and most prone to be affected by wind resistance.
Eventually the Court of Arbitration for Sport overturned the IAAF’s decision. Upon hearing their ruling, Pistorius made clear that this was more than just his own fight, saying, ;“My focus throughout this appeal has been to ensure that disabled athletes be given the chance to compete and compete fairly with able-bodied athletes.”