Oscar plays down chances
Gemona, Italy - Popular sporting hero Oscar Pistorius, the man known as the Blade Runner, says he was ‘lucky’ to be selected by South Africa for the Olympic Games 400m after failing to get the required qualifying time.
Speaking in an interview with Laureus.com
less than two weeks before the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games in London, Pistorius admitted: “Not making the qualification criteria of the South African Olympic Confederation (SASCOC) was pretty tough. Really I was in limbo. You never know which way it is going to go. I was very lucky. I think I was downplaying it quite a lot, because I did not want myself to be disappointed.”
Pistorius, 25, a double amputee who runs with the aid of carbon fibre lower legs, also admitted that the way he has been selected has put additional pressure on him. “Yes, now that SASCOC has backed me and shown that they believe in me has added a little bit of pressure. But regardless of what external pressure there is, I always give my best on the day so I hope that in London I will just have a clear mind. I know if I enjoy it and I run a relaxed race, I will run quick.”
In the interview, which took place at his training centre in Gemona, in the foothills of the Italian Dolomites, Pistorius also warned his fans that London may not see the best of him.
He said: “I think 2016 in Rio de Janeiro will be where I will be at my pinnacle as a sprinter. Most sprinters peak between 27 and 29 and I will be 29 in Rio so hopefully I can work towards that and I am as keen and as excited as I have ever been. Maybe after that I will start looking at throwing in the towel, but I want to end on a high. We can shake on producing better results in Rio, but hopefully there are some pinnacles of my career in London as well.”
Pistorius, who is also an ambassador for the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation, says his target for London is to make the semi-final in the 400 metres. “I did that in Daegu in the World Championships last year, but in the semi-final there I did not post a time that I was very happy with and I finished last. I think a realistic goal and a tough goal would be for me to finish in a better position in the semi. If I can make the semi-final and run close to my personal best, I will be very happy with that.”
He seems less confident of repeating the silver medal he won in the South Africa 4 x 400m relay team in Daegu. “It would be lovely, but the relay team is a little bit different to what we had last year. Some of the guys have been struggling a bit with injuries so we will go in with a fair set of challenges, but I know that they have got a lot of heart,” he said.
Pistorius also said it's been a difficult year for him. “Trying to get the Olympic time has been a bit of a challenge. When I came to Europe I was just struggling a bit. I had a niggle with my hip and it was amazing how that set me back in the first couple of races. Because we had so many races planned in a short period of time, it did not give me much time to get the issues sorted out.
“Finally when the team was selected, knowing that I have made the 400 metres individual and the 4 x 400 metres relay was just a dream come true and a massive blessing. It has been six years of a lot of hard work and sacrifice from our end, not only from me, but from my team. My coach has put in a lot of time and effort and the various trainers that I have and my family and friends. I have got a lot of people to thank for my position that I am in.”
Pistorius is keen that the publicity surrounding him competing in the non-disabled Olympic Games should not deflect interest in the Paralympic Games, rather the reverse. “I hope that my presence in the Olympics will definitely draw attention to the Paralympics. I started my first Paralympics in 2004 and the difference I saw between 2004 and 2008 was unbelievable and, if I look at already how much attention the London Paralympic Games has got, it is amazing. I think it is going to be unparalleled to anything we have ever seen before.
“I will be trying to defend my titles, but the level of professionalism has definitely stepped up in the Paralympic amputee sprints among the guys that have specialised in the 100 metres so, being an athlete, that has focused on the 400 in the last five or six years, I have dropped 11 kilograms since 2008, so I have lost a lot of power to be more efficient for the 400.
“So my work is definitely cut out for me on the 100 but it is still a title - I have still got the world record there and it will be a blessing for me to run against some of the world’s best. As they say, in the final, on a good day, it is anybody’s game so I will still go there with my A game and hopefully my experience pays off.”
Pistorius began the year with a major success in London when he received the Laureus Disability Award in February. He said: “To say it was humbling is maybe an understatement. There are not many accolades that sportsmen try and achieve off the field of play, but that was really one that was just unbelievable.”
He said of his work as an Ambassador for the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation: “I was very privileged to go out to Tanzania last year to see one of the projects that they have done there and to see the change that you can make in a community and the amount of smiles you can put on kids’ faces.
"I went there thinking I would be able to give and I think I left that experience with more than what I had intended to give. It was just really an eye-opener and to be involved with the Laureus Foundation is something that I hope I will be able to do for many, many years to come."