Blades should be in ratio to body height says Oscar Pistorius
The South African believes that, for amputee sprinters such as himself, a simple rule should be applied to the use of blades for sprinters: that they should enable athletes’ performances, but not enhance them.
It was Alan Oliveira’s use of what Pistorius thinks are unacceptably long blades which led to that outburst at the end of the 200m final, won by the Brazilian. Normally the most good-natured of men, Pistorius complained that Oliveira and other athletes were being allowed to use blades which were so long that they added inches to their height and – more crucially – to their stride.
The following day, Pistorius apologised for the timing of his remarks, but insisted he stood by their content. This week, in Scotland for the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, he told The Scotsman that he was optimistic that a fair outcome could be found, and that even in the slow-moving world of sports politics, it would be implemented soon enough to be accepted standard practice long before the Rio Games of 2016.
“I believe there are some rules that need to be changed, and this is one rule that I brought up with the International Paralympic Committee last year, then again in April,” he explained. “It was something that they didn’t agree with. Now they are speaking with my National Paralympic Committee and they’re looking like they might change the rule.
“It’s about fairness. We all compete with similar blades, but length does make a huge difference. Every guy, I believe, needs to have a standard height in relation to his body.”
Pistorius had a long struggle before being allowed to compete using blades at the Olympics. One study found they allowed him to expend less energy than able-bodied athletes, but that conclusion was later shown by a more comprehensive study to be incorrect.
He remains a convinced advocate of prosthetic technology, but thinks it needs to be more strictly regulated. If you are built like Usain Bolt and stand at 6ft 5in, he argues, fair enough. But if you are 5ft 6in, you should not race with blades which allow you to eat up the ground as Oliveira did in the closing stages of that 200m final. “If your natural height is 6ft 5in, and your body and arms and upper legs are in relation, then that’s your make-up,” he continued. “But there were some guys at the Paralympics who before they had their legs amputated were 6ft. And the knee height of their prosthetic legs would allow them to be 6ft 10in.
“That’s not in relation. It’s not normal, and obviously it has huge effects on running efficiency, which then changes the times.
“I think Alan’s a great guy, and I have a lot of respect for him. But I improved less than a second over eight years. He improved a second and a half in one month. That’s definitely something they need to look into.
“So now my national committee is talking to the IPC. I’m sure they’ll have a conclusion by the end of the year,”
While disappointed to lose his 200m title, Pistorius still won two golds as well as that silver in the Paralympics, and also competed in the Olympics, as well as carrying the South African flag at the closing ceremony. Individual successes aside, he was delighted by both London events – or perhaps, more precisely, by the way in which they were presented together as parts of one bigger celebration of sport.
“Lord Seb Coe and the team at Locog really did a lot for the profile of Paralympic sport. They never sold the Olympic Games as just the Olympics: it was always the Olympic and Paralympic Games.
“The competition and the athletes were treated equally, and some of the British Paralympians became household names in the UK. I think that was very important. And there was definitely a move that showed the Games were not just about the disability of the athletes, but about their ability.”
Pistorius’s own life has always been about ability, not disability: the most common word he uses about himself “blessed”. This in part reflects his religious upbringing, but he thinks everyone should be able to feel the same way whether they have faith or not.
“People complain so easily. I listen to some people who have everything and they complain about the smallest thing. I think every now and again we need to take a step back and evaluate where we are in life. We need to be grateful for what we’ve got.
“Look at the bigger picture. People are living in far worse conditions than we are, with far less, and they’re happy.
“I am very blessed, and I’m very happy with the situation I’m in. Life is really not as bad as some people think it is. We’ve got family, friends, roof over our heads, food on our table: what more could you really want?”