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Fri Apr 18 05:03:22 SAST 2014

Oscar gets helping hand

DAVID ISAACSON | 05 July, 2012 06:530 Comments
South African runner Oscar Pistorius is launched by Oakley for their campain going into the 2012 London Olympics on April 17, 2012 in Pretoria
Image by: Sydney Seshibedi / Gallo Images / The Times

DOUBLE amputee Oscar Pistorius will compete at the London Olympics after all.

The Paralympic star was yesterday named in a South African team that also features the country's first black swimmer to be selected for a Games.

Pistorius will become the first amputee to compete in track and field at an Olympics when he runs in the individual 400m race as well as the 4x400m relay. He was a member of the relay team that won silver at the able-bodied World Championships last year, when they effectively sealed the relay team's qualification for London.

"Today is really one of the happiest days of my life," Pistorius tweeted after the announcement. "Will be in London for both the Olympic and Paralympic Games."

The South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee yesterday added 13 athletes to Team South Africa, pushing the squad to 125 competitors.

Among them is swimmer Darren Murray, who will race in the 200m backstroke. He is one of six young athletes picked for their potential for the 2016 Olympics.

Murray, Trudi Maree (50m freestyle), Jessica Roux (open water 10km) and Lehann Fourie (110m hurdles) failed to match the criteria for automatic qualification.

The other two, weightlifter Jean Greeff and canoeist Tiffany Kruger, were named in the first batch last month. But there was no reprieve for sprinter Simon Magakwe, who achieved six qualifying times in the 100m on home soil, but was unable to repeat his effort at a meet with international status.

He is one of seven athletes with at least one qualifying time who will watch the Games from South Africa. Athletes had to crack two qualifying times, at least one in the international category.

Pistorius also failed to tick the international box, but because he had done one time - the requirement as laid down by the world governing body of athletics - Sascoc allowed him to compete in the individual race too.

"If the relay squad had not qualified Oscar would not have been in the team," Sascoc CEO Tubby Reddy said.

"I have a phenomenal team behind me who have helped get me here," said Pistorius, the country's fastest runner over 400m this year.

"I, along with them, will now put everything we can into the final few weeks of preparations before the Games, where I am aiming to race well, work well through the rounds, post good times and maybe even a personal best time on the biggest stage of them all."

Pistorius' road to the Olympics started by winning a court bid some years ago allowing him to compete in able-bodied events, disputing suggestions the blades he runs on give him an unfair advantage.

Pistorius, born without fibulas, qualified for the World Championships last year and ran in both the relay and individual races.

He will not be the first amputee to compete at an Olympics - most recently swimmer Natalie du Toit finished 16th in the 10km open water swim in Beijing 2008.

Despite Sascoc's tough qualifying criteria, the team will still be the country's second-largest of the post-isolation era, smaller only than the 136 who went to Beijing.

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