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Oscar Pistorius may be many things to many people, but he is under no illusions when it comes to his track exploits.
Lining up for his third Paralympic Games, Pistorius has his busiest schedule yet when he tackles four track events – the 100m sprint, 200m, 400m and 4x100m relay.
The double amputee, who will be Team South Africa’s flagbearer at tonight’s opening ceremony, won three golds in those first three events at the 2008 Paralympics in Beijing but, four years down the line, he knows he has a big task.
“Since Beijing I’ve lost 11kg and I have certainly shifted more to a 400m runner, so the 100m will be the biggest challenge for me here in London,” said Pistorius.
“There are probably about six guys in the 100m who could win it… The 100m is always the hottest ticket at the Olympics and Paralympics… whether it be on the track or in the pool.
“It’s always hugely close. In Athens 2004 I was third by less than 0.10sec and in Beijing I won by 0.03sec.
“So, to be realistic, I’ll be very happy with a top three, I’m aiming at a medal. Sure, I’d love to defend my 100m title, but I just think I have moved away from the 100m.”
Having said that, though, Pistorius is impressed with the way his body has reacted to a different training regime since he reached the semi-finals of the Olympics Games here.
“My coach, Ampie Louw, and I have now moved on to heavier weights and more speed work to help me in the short events and, in the past two weeks, I ran my second-fastest 100m time of the past four years at a small meeting in Poland.”
The man known as the Blade Runner will be in action for the first time on Saturday when he lines up for the 200m heats and hopefully goes through to Sunday’s final.
“I think the 200m is my favourite event, because as I’ve said, I’ve moved away from the 100m, but the 400m is also one long race.
“I’ll just be looking to get through the heats as comfortably as possible and then step up for the final. Hopefully I’ll be first out of the corner and have some high velocity with me.
“In Athens I broke the world record with my first 200m, so that was a very enjoyable race and has good memories for me.”
Asked whether having to concentrate on both the Olympics and Paralympics would take some of the sting out of his performances, Pistorius was adamant that this would not be the case.
“I’ve already had 22 races this year – in essence we run from May to September, so it doesn’t really matter. I needed to peak for the 400m and now I’ve just used the past two weeks to get stronger.”
And Pistorius is confident that these Games will be groundbreaking in many ways. “Athens were my first Games… until the beginning of that year I didn’t know much about disabled sport and didn’t even know the guys on either side of me!
“I think the biggest crowd turn-out was 20 000 on the one Saturday – the rest of the days was maybe 7 000 or so. Then Beijing had big crowds but the perception was still not great.
“In the past two to three years, perception has shifted and I think this will be the most accessible Paralympics in regards to audience, and so on, where the focus will not be on disability but ability. I think these Games will change perceptions about not only athletes with disabilities but about all people with disabilities.” – roadtolond2012.co.za