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Pistorius' Saga Takes Turn

Oscar Pistorius of South Africa performs in the men's 400m during the Norwich Union Grand Prix at the Don Valley Stadium, Sheffield, England. Photo: ANDREW YATES/AFP/Getty Images
Oscar Pistorius of South Africa performs in the men's 400m during the Norwich Union Grand Prix at the Don Valley Stadium, Sheffield, England. Photo: ANDREW YATES/AFP/Getty Images

It should have been a celebration for Oscar Pistorius , the double-amputee sprinter known as "Blade Runner." Instead, the South African Paralympian's debut against top-flight, able-bodied international runners left him soaked and disappointed.

After finishing second in the 400m B' race on Friday, July 13, Pistorius finished last and was later disqualified for running outside his lane in the rain-soaked 400m elite race, which also featured reigning Olympic champion Jeremy Wariner, Sunday, July 15, at the Norwich Union Grand Prix in Sheffield, England. Worse, the International Association of Athletic Federations (IAFF) again raised the argument that Pistorius' carbon-fiber legs give him an unfair advantage over able-bodied runners. This statement comes four weeks after the IAFF reversed its March ruling that barred from competition any runner deemed to benefit from artificial help and decided to allow Pistorius to compete in the British Grand Prix event.

After the July 15 race, however, the IAFF started further investigation into Pistorius' prostheses. Nick Davies, communication director for the IAFF, said his organization viewed high-definition footage of the race and believes the carbon-fiber legs are "technical aids."

"What we did [in June] was not reinstate him but actually clarify he wasn't banned, that he could run," Davies told the BBC. "What we are doing now is...finding out if [his legs] do give him an advantage; in other words make him faster than he would have been as an able-bodied athlete." Davies cited the fact that Pistorius was faster at the end of the race than the beginning, the opposite of what is expected. The IAFF said its research will center around whether or not Pistorius' carbon-fiber Cheetah® legs offer less wind resistance than natural human legs.

Pistorius then called out the IAFF, telling the BBC, "The least they could do is give me the chance to fight my fight and work with me and not against me."

Pistorius, 20, was born without fibulae, and both legs were amputated below the knee before his first birthday. Pistorius owns world records for disabled athletes in the 100m (10.91 seconds), 200m (21.58), and 400m (46.56) dash. Despite his disappointment after the Grand Prix, Pistorius has not given up his quest to compete in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, but gaining the IAFF's approval may be the easy part. The hard part could be clocking the qualifying time of 45.95 seconds in the 400m.

OPAF Clinics a Success

Jason Wening takes a backhand at First Volley. Photographs by Denise Riesen courtesy of OPAF.
Jason Wening takes a backhand at First Volley. Photographs by Denise Riesen courtesy of OPAF.

Summer in Chicago, Illinois , is officially in full swing after the successful completion of three First Clinics sponsored by the Orthotic & Prosthetic Assistance Fund Inc. (OPAF). First Swing for golfers, First Volley for tennis players, and First Swim for water lovers all were held over the weekend of June 15-16 with participants coming in from around the region.

First Swing Learn to Golf clinic teed off with lessons by National Amputee Golf Association (NAGA) instructors Bud Sanders, Don Zommer, and Dan Cox. First Volley Director of Tennis Darren Kindred and instructor Kyle Devlin guided participants through the paces of adaptive tennis for ambulatory players. First Swim, sponsored by Scheck & Siress, headquartered in Oakbrook Terrace, Illinois, was led by Paralympian gold medalist Jason Wening, who wowed the audience with his knowledge and instruction.

First Dive Makes a Splash in Buffalo

First Dive instructor assists an amputee diver.
First Dive instructor assists an amputee diver.

First Dive TM , an adaptive "try scuba" clinic, made a big splash June 24 in Buffalo, New York. The clinic, sponsored by OPAF, along with Phoenix Scuba and Water Sports and the Western New York Adaptive Water Sports, hosted both First Dive and a Train the Trainer session.

First Dive invited amputees and those with physical challenges to try scuba in a swimming pool setting. Participants included an amputee, an MS patient, and a paraplegic patient, all of whom enjoyed time in the pool with instructors and helpers. Participants were introduced to the equipment and the feeling of non-weight bearing in the water.

For more information about how to host a First Clinic in your area, contact OPAF at 215.752.5756 or rlb@opfund.org