South African Oscar Pistorius was born with congenital absence of the fibula, meaning he lacked the crucial calf bone altogether, and at 11 months old, doctors amputated both his legs below the knees. But equipped with carbon fiber blades as prosthetics, Pistorius, also known as “Blade Runner” or “the fastest man on no legs,” has grown into a world-class track star. Last year, he made history when he qualified for the world championships and took silver in the 4x400-meter relay. This year, he’s got his sights set on an Olympic medal.
Pistorius was chosen to run in the 4x400 relay, making him the first amputee to compete in the Olympic Games. Then, earlier this month, the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee agreed to let Pistorius run the individual 400-meter race as well, despite the fact that he missed the country's qualifying time for the individual race by 0.22 seconds. He will be the only South African to compete in that race.
"Since he's going to be there [in London], our decision is he can run both," Olympic committee chief executive Tubby Reddy told The Associated Press. "There's no reason why he can't."
Though Pistorius has multiple Paralympic championships to his name, he was unable to compete in the 2008 Summer Games in Beijing due to the international track and field federation’s (IAAF’s) ban on athletes with prosthetic legs—a rule stemming from the thought that prosthetic limbs could provide the athletes with an unfair advantage. But after Pistorius put up a fight, the IAAF overturned the rule.
"To have been selected to represent Team South Africa at the London 2012 Olympic Games in the individual 400m and the 4x400m relay is a real honor,” Pistorius told USA Today. “I am so pleased that years of hard work, determination, and sacrifice have all come together."
The opening day of the 400-meter heats is August 4. Pistorius is expected to draw the most attention to a track-and-field event since Usain Bolt, the Jamacian sprinter who took home three gold medals from the 2008 Summer Games in Bejing.