After athletics chiefs banned double amputee Oscar Pistorius from competing against able bodied sprinters three years ago I was proud to headline an article on The-Latest: "Let him run."
Our lonely campaign came good when Oscar this month not only competed at the Athletics World Championships but also made the 400 metres semi-final. Grenadian 19-year-old sensation Kirwani James was crowned world champion at the distance.
In January 2008, battle lines were drawn between those people who claimed Oscar's specially-crafted carbon fibre limbs gave him an advantaged over non-disabled fellow athletes and those people who did not think that was the case.
The-Latest contributor Ollie Richer, an ardent sports fan, argued: "The IAAF (athletics's rulers) have said that his prosthetic racing blades give him an advantage over able-bodied opponents and contravene rules on technical aids. A scientific study revealed that Pistorius, nicknamed 'Blade Runner', used 25 per cent less energy than able-bodied runners to run at the same speed."
He added: "Personally I don't see anything wrong with this decision, and don't see why he should be allowed to compete. Athletics remains the purest form of sport on our planet, the ultimate test of man and his capabilities. The introduction of any form of chemical or technical aid diminishes this pureness."
In his defence, Oscar said: "I feel that it is my responsibility, on behalf of myself and all other disabled athletes, to stand firmly and not allow one organisation to inhibit our ability to compete using the very tools without which we simply cannot walk, let alone run".
Bravo new athletics superstar, Oscar. Sports rules are there to be challenged and, where outdated, changed.
Ian Chadband, the Daily Telegraph's chief sports reporter, said: "In a year’s time, there will be talk of the young South African again at the Paralympics in London, when the flame is lit. He will be centre stage. What an advert he has been this week for the Paralympics…while a heated debate has raged around him."
He added: "It seems there are many people in this world who believe that being born without shin bones and bones in your feet is not a disadvantage in life. Plus ca change."
"There are those who insist that Oscar competing at both Olympics and Paralympics blurs the edges between the two sporting festivals and creates a huge dilemma for Paralympic organisers."
Oscar has carried himself with dignity at the World Championships in Daegu, South Korea, even ever so politely calling women interviewers "ma'am". TV audiences around the world have watched in awe. Now the Paralympic Games has a great ambassador in the sprinter, who will be in Trafalgar Square, outside South Africa House, next week when tickets go on sale for the London Olympics of next summer.
There are other athletes who are on the cusp of crossing over into both the Paralympics and Olympics, or have already done so. Sarah Storey, born without a hand, may cycle for Britain next summer in both Olympic and Paralympic Games. But, she would compete in different events at the two Games.
Natalie Du Toit, pictured left, the South African swimmer, a single-leg amputee, competed in the open water swimming event at the Olympics in Beijing, before winning a clutch of gold medals a few weeks later at the Water Cube in the Paralympics. Again, different events.
It could be argued that she has less weight to carry through the water, yet she will most likely compete in both Games. Natalia Partyka, a table-tennis player from Poland, born without a hand, competed in both Games in Beijing.
They are stand-outs. They can, because they are good enough. And, significantly, because they can cross over. Some athletes cannot cross over. Wheelchair events are not included in the Olympic Games, but have been included as demonstration events at World Championships and Olympics.
The Paralympic Games are a year away. Between now and then, there are many pros and cons to debate. The British public will need educating on many of the intricacies of Paralympic sport, some of which are complex. What's for sure is that the feats of disabled athletes will no longer be a patronising side show and Oscar Pistorius will be at the heart of a centre-stage sporting discussion.
* Marc Wadsworth is a former member of the British Athletics Writers Association.
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