Pistorius Makes History; 2012 NJDC; ACA Youth Camp

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Pistorius Makes History

Photograph courtesy of Fast Track Agency.

Oscar Pistorius made history as the first bilateral amputee to compete in the Olympics when he took his place at the starting blocks in heat 1, round 1 of the men's 400m dash in the 2012 London Olympic Games on Saturday, August 4. With a finish time of 45.44 seconds-his best time this season-Pistorius earned second place and qualified to run in the August 5 semifinals. Pistorius' time was the 16th fastest of the 24 who advanced to the finals.

During Sunday's semifinals, Pistorius lined up for heat 2. However, his 0.254-second reaction time-the time it takes to push off the starting blocks-was the slowest of the 24 semifinalists. He clocked 46.54 seconds, about two seconds slower than the heat winner.

"I don't have ankle articulation, so the start is always going to be one of my biggest down points in the race," Pistorius was quoted as saying in the StarTribune. "It's just one of those things that I have to work on and be as efficient at top speed as I possibly can."

Pistorius' second opportunity to earn an Olympic medal came August 9 as part of the South African team running the men's 4x400m relay. While Pistorius was waiting in the baton changeover area to run the third leg of the race, a Kenyan runner knocked down teammate Ofentse Mogawane, and South Africa did not finish. The South African team won an appeal and advanced to the August 10 finals. Running as anchor, Pistorius was unable to make up the time lost by his teammates. South Africa finished in eighth place.

2012 National Junior Disability Championships

Photograph by Sarah Homan, courtesy of the NJDC.

The 29th annual National Junior Disability Championships (NJDC), held this year in Mesa, Arizona, saw 115 junior athletes with physical disabilities, ranging in age from seven to 21 years, "beat the heat" in temperatures ranging upward of 100 degrees as they competed in track and field, archery, powerlifting, table tennis, swimming, and the pentathlon. Participants came from across the United States and as far away as Thailand to participate in this eight-day event, held July 21-28.

The athletes all qualified at regional meets held earlier in the year for the opportunity to compete in the NJDC. "These aren't recreational athletes doing this just for fun," Josh Todd, sports-development manager for the Mesa Convention and Visitors Bureau, told The Arizona Republic. "Their dream is to be in the Paralympics."

In fact, results for athletes with a 2012 International Paralympic Committee (IPC) license counted toward IPC World Rankings, IPC World Records, and World Championships qualification.

During the course of the week, many athletes set records and set personal bests. However, time was also set aside for the athletes to socialize with each other. Scheduled social events started with the opening ceremonies and a meet-and-greet dance social, and included the chance to attend an Arizona Diamondbacks baseball game, a pool party, and the closing ceremony awards banquet.

Dates for the 2013 NJDC have not yet been set.

Amputee Coalition Youth Camp: S'more Fun

The ropes course is one of the favorite activities at the youth camp. Photograph by Sorin Pasarin, courtesy of the Amputee Coalition.

The Amputee Coalition's Paddy Rossbach Youth Camp is just like any other sleep-away summer camp-except it is specially designed for children, ages ten to 17, who have amputations or who were born with limb differences. The campers enjoyed day activities such as fishing, canoeing, archery, creative arts, swimming, scaling the rock climbing wall, and playing basketball. In addition to games and a dance, campers were able to enjoy the evening camp tradition of making S'mores by the campfire. New this year was a sitting volleyball course.

Ninety-four campers attended the annual five-day camp held in Clarksville, Ohio. The Amputee Coalition covers all camper expenses through financial support received from direct sponsorships, fundraising events, donations, grants, and Coalition support.

A highlight came this year from one little girl who had lost a leg to cancer. She had never walked on her prosthesis and was afraid even to try, according to an Amputee Coalition spokesperson. Bolstered by encouragement from her camp counselor and the girls in her cabin, she was walking and dancing by the end of camp.

"The kids have a blast at camp reconnecting with old friends and making new ones," said Kendra Calhoun, president and CEO of the Amputee Coalition. "Even before the last of our counselors and staff return from their own flights home, we start getting phone calls and e-mails from parents thanking us and telling us how much more confident and self-reliant their children are because of the camp experience. They say their kids are already counting the minutes until next year's camp."