10 Things You Didn’t Know About Olympic Runner Oscar Pistorius
South African sprinter Oscar Pistorius is already a champion. After missing the qualifying time for the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing by less than a second, Pistorius, 25, will compete at the London Games, becoming the first double amputee runner at the Olympics. Pistorius, who runs with the assistance of two carbon-fibre blades, was a contributor to the South African team that earned a silver medal in the 4×400 meter relay at the 2011 World Championships in Daegu, South Korea.
With the world watching, Pistorius will have an opportunity to add an Olympic medal to his list of accomplishments, while inspiring both able-bodied and disabled athletes.
Here are 10 things you may not have known about this remarkable and inspirational athlete:
Fast Facts About Oscar Pistorius
Oscar Pistorius was born in Sandton, Johannesburg, South Africa on November 22, 1986 with a congenital absence of the fibula in both of his legs. His parents, Henke and Sheila Pistorius, elected to have Oscar’s legs amputated halfway between his knees and ankles when he was 11 months old.
When wearing his running blades, Pistorius stands six feet, one-and-a-quarter inches tall and weighs 177 pounds. The London Games are his first Olympics, though he’s been competing internationally since 2004.
He Has Several Awesome Nicknames
Known by his unique condition and running apparatus, Oscar Pistorius has been dubbed ‘The Blade Runner,’ ‘Oz’ and ‘The Fastest Man on No Legs.’ His 2009 autobiography was also entitled ‘Blade Runner.’ Even his prosthetics — the carbon-fibre blades made by Icelandic company Ossur — have a cool name: the Cheetah Flex-Foot.
He Almost Didn’t Qualify For The Olympics
Pistorius needed to run the 400 meters in 45.30 seconds twice in international competition to qualify for the Olympics. He missed by two-tenths of a second: 45.52. Fortunately, the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee named him to the 4 x 400 meter relay team, which will allow him to compete in both events in London. It’s the same team that earned the silver medal in Daegu, South Korea.
He Had To Go To Court To Earn The Right To Compete
After a 2007 ruling from the International Association of Athletics Federations prohibited ‘the use of any technical device that incorporates springs, wheels or any other element that provides a user with an advantage over another athlete not using such a device,’ the agency determined that Pistorius had an advantage by using the blades and banned him from attempting to qualify for the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing.
Pistorius contracted law firm Dewey & LeBoeuf, who used scientific tests conducted at Rice University in Houston to successfully argued the case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in Lausanne, Switzerland. CAS upheld Pistorius’s appeal and reversed the IAAF council decision. Still, IAAF general secretary Pierre Weiss asked that the South African Olympic Committee not select Pistorius to its team, because his apparatus could potentially cause harm to himself or another runner if he were to fall during a race.
Pistorius threatened further legal action and the IAAF relented. However, Pistorius failed to qualify for the 2008 Olympics, falling just 0.70 seconds short of making the South African team.
He Is Already A World Champion and Record Holder
In addition to competing in able-bodied races, Pistorius dominated the Paralympic and the T44 class — meaning one leg amputated below the knee. He won gold medals in the 100 and 200 meter races at the 2004 Summer Paralympics in Athens and in the 100, 200 and 400 meter races in the 2008 Summer Paralympics in Beijing. He has held the T44 world record in the 100, 200 and 400 meter races.
He Used To Love Other Sports More Than Running
While at Pretoria Boys High School, Pistorius competed in rugby, water polo, tennis and Olympic wrestling. After suffering a serious knee injury while playing rugby in 2003, Pistorius began to run as part of his rehabilitation. He was competing in international events by the end of 2004.
Tapping into his incredible story, Nike has featured Pistorius in a series of ads that echo its own mantra of ‘Just Do It,’ as well as illustrate his focus on his abilities, rather than his disabilities in the ‘Bad Listener’ ad spot.
He Is Still In School
Though he is in his mid-20s, Pistorius is still a student at the University of Pretoria. He is pursuing a Bachelor of Commerce in business management with a sports science concentration. Due to his very active training and competition schedule, Pistorius has had to schedule light course loads.
He Has Been Lauded Outside the Athletic Community
In 2008, Time named Pistorius to the 2008 TIME 100 – the magazine’s annual list of the world’s most influential people. Listed under ‘Heroes & Pioneers,’ Pistorius was given a tremendous written tribute from Erik Weihenmayer, the first blind person to climb Mount Everest. Additionally, Pistorius was awarded the BBC Sports Personality of the Year in 2007 and the Laureus World Sports Award for Sportsperson of the Year with a Disability for 2012.
He Released a CD For Charity in 2008
Pistorius helped release ‘Olympic Dream,’ a music CD of disco remixes that serve as motivational music for Pistorius and other athletes. Pistorius provides voice-overs on the tracks “Olympic Dream” and “Run Boy Run”, both of which were written for him. A portion of the proceeds from the sales of the CD were given to charity.
In addition, Pistorius is an ambassador for the Mineseeker Foundation, which is dedicated to ‘the detection, identification and removal of land-mines’ in war-torn or militarized areas of the world, as well as help those who have been affected by stepping on a land-mine.
He Is Dating a Supermodel
Pistorius has been romantically linked to Russian model Anastassia Khozissova. The beautiful Russian has modeled for Giorgio Armani, Chanel, Christian Dior, Ralph Lauren and more. She may be in London to root for Pistorius.
In addition, Pistorius has done some modeling of his own, appearing on the cover of South African GQ and in an advertising campaign for a Thierry Mugler fragrance. Mugler, Oakley sunglasses and BT wireless are among the companies that sponsor Pistorius.