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The official slogan of the 2012 Olympics Games is “Inspire a Generation”, and despite the best efforts of the British gold medal winners, the most inspirational person in London is probably a South African who last night crashed out of the semi-finals of his event.
The British public have turned these Games into a festival of hero-worship for their gold medal winners, with incredible public adulation for their stars and new-found idols.
But when Oscar Pistorius on Saturday became the first amputee to run at both the Paralympics and the Olympics, he became the poster boy for |inspiration.
The media in London cannot get enough of the South African, and yesterday just about every newspaper in the country carried a story about Saturday’s 400m heats, his first event at the Olympics, and some also had full-page adverts for a company |that has signed Pistorius as a brand ambassador.
The ads are designed around inspirational quotes from the double amputee.
So, last night when he ran a time of 46.54 sec to finish eighth in the second heat of the men’s 400m semi-final and bow out of the competition, it did not matter that he did not win.
Long before he even stepped on to the track to run the semi-final he had won more than any of the home-country heroes – he has overcome obvious personal hardship; he has beaten the system that wanted to ban him from competing against able-bodied athletes, and two years ago he had to fight for his life after a serious boating accident.
Last night Pistorius fought hard to get into the final but was never able to come back at his rivals after a slower-than-normal start which allowed Belgian Jonathan Borlee to pass him from the lane inside before they had even reached the back straight.
His time was a full second outside his season best of 45.44sec, which he set in the heats on Saturday.
Pistorius has had a lifetime of inspirational moments building up to his weekend’s racing, so although his dream of taking part in the Olympic 400m final has ended, he will still inspire more generations than anybody running, jumping or throwing their way to a gold medal can hope to.