Monday, 3 September 2012
Oscar Pistorius, sour grapes or at a disadvantage?
So much of the Olympic and Paralympic coverage has been centered around the 'Blade Runner', Oscar Pistorius. He was the first double amputee to compete at the Olympics and in no way was he just making up the numbers, reaching the 400m semi-finals and 4x400m final. Considering the fact he competes with, and beats able-bodied athletes it's understandable that he's always a favourite for any race he enters limited to athletes with below knee amputations. Any athlete who beats Pistorius would be deemed to have caused a substantial upset, enter Alan Oliveira.
Oliveira beat Pistorius over 200m in the T44 final, unfortunately Oliveira's run was over shadowed by Pistorius' comments moments after. Pistorius stated "I can't compete with Alan's stride length......it's very clear that the guys have got very long strides", firstly this just isn't the case. Pistorius took 92 strides (49 in the first 100m, 43 in the second), Oliveira took 98 (52 in the first 100m, 46 in the second). Pistorius' stides are actually longer than Oliveira's, it's Oliveira who can't compete with Pistorius' stride length.
Secondly Pistorius stated "the guys' legs are unbelievably long", an issue Pistorius says he brought up with the IPC weeks before the games. The IPC has a formula to limit the length of blades based on what they estimate the athlete's height would be if they had both legs. Oliveira's blades are completely legal, falling within the measurements allowed by the IPC. Pistorius could actually lengthen his blades if he wished so I'm not entirely sure why he believes Oliveira's blade length is unfair.
Interestingly Pistorius also said "the guys are just running ridiculous times", despite the fact all these 'guys' are running slower times than Pistorius himself. Oliveira's winning time was 0.15 seconds slower than the world record Pistorius had set the previous day. Pistourius' comments would suggest he believes anyone who can run nearly as fast as him to be running a 'ridiculous time'. Sounds like sour grapes to me, especially considering Pistorius' trademark has been to come from behind and win by 'ridiculous' margins.
Another point to consider is how 'slow' Pistorius ran rather than how 'fast' Oliveira did. Pistorius covered the 200m distance 0.28 seconds slower than he did the previous day, 21.30 seconds (a new world record) compared to 21.58. Were the comments following the race a result of disappointment from a tired athlete? It's entirely possible, Pistorius running a much slower final would certainly suggest that. Let's not forget Oliveira has been able to prepare specifically for the Paralympics while Pistorius has been competing far more over the last month as well as dealing with substantially more media commitments.
Pistorius will always be remembered as the 'Blade Runner', the first double amputee to compete at the Olympics. The moment he shared with Kirani James following the Olympic 400m semi-final will not be quickly forgotten, however it was only a matter of time before someone else reached the perch Pistorius has solely occupied for so long. The debate over regulating blades will continue and it's definitely something the IPC and IAAF need to investigate, as technology improves regulations need to be set to ensure a level playing field. The place for that debate however is not after a Paralympic final. Simply it takes the spotlight away from those competing and I would have thought Pistorius would know exactly how it feels to be discussed for your adherence to rules as opposed to your athletic achievements.
Sour grapes? Possibly. It's the first time I've seen Pistorius speak in that way although it's also the first time he's been beaten on a world stage, there are no other interviews in which to compare. I believe he was simply beaten by a better athlete last night and his inaccurate comments were a result of emotions running high and giving an interview without really thinking about the impact his words would have.
As always I'm interested to hear any other views points or opinions on the matter, it's seems likely this will be a topic of debate for some time.