Kevin McCallum and SAPA
While a world record was not part of his plans, Oscar Pistorius had a point to prove to his “long-legged” friends in the men’s 200m T43/44 heats at the Paralympic Games on Saturday night.
Double amputee Pistorius clocked 21.30 seconds to improve his own global mark in the T43 division.
“I don’t even know what to say as I would never have guessed that I’d run a world record tonight,” Pistorius said after the heats.
“I eased off about 20 metres from the end as I knew I was comfortable and wanted to conserve energy.
“In all my goals I had for the Paralympics, a world record was always going to be a bonus.”
While Pistorius had to overcome many obstacles to make his historic debut at the able-bodied Olympic Games a few weeks ago – and still has critics who claim his prosthetic legs give him an advantage over the other athletes.
He now faces similar reservations about some of his rivals as another controversy bubbles under the surface.
“There is definitely something up with the length of the prosthetic legs,” Pistorius commented on Brazil’s Alan Oliveira who won the first heat in 21.88 seconds, storming clear of American favourite Jerome Singleton in the finishing straight.
“If you look at the videos from last year, Alan was shorter than me but now he’s taller than me.
“The same with Blake Leeper, and it’s a problem because the rules allow the guys to make themselves a lot longer longer than what they would have been had they not been double amputees.
“So it is difficult because you saw Blake Leeper five metres behind Arnu Fourie on the straight and then he finished three metres ahead of him.
“I don’t take away from their performances, I think they’re great athletes, but it’s very clear that the guys have got very long strides.”
Fellow South African Fourie, a single-leg amputee, finished 0.34 seconds behind Leeper and set a new world best in the 200m T44 division, clocking 22.57 in his heat.
“Arnu is a phenomenal guy and a great competitor,” Pistorius said of his roommate.
Pistorius said he was aware that his critics said he could not train for the Olympics and the Paralympics.
He hoped his performance on the track proved them wrong.
“Everybody was saying I don’t care about the Paralympic Games and I can’t peak for both, but I’ve proved everybody wrong.
“There were people who doubted my goals but look at the clock – it says 21.30.
“The last two days I’ve been overwhelmed just thinking about coming back out here but the crowds are exactly the same.
“They are so passionate and excited that it feels just like it did during the Olympics.
“This is a world class event and you couldn’t hope for anything better,” he said.
Pistorius is the defending champion in the 100m, 200m and 400m.
So the fastest man on no legs smashed the world 200m record and silenced any doubters that he would be taking it easy at the Paralympics three weeks after leaving the Olympics.
Arnu Fourie who broke the world record for single leg amputees with a time of 22.57secs will race against Pistorius in the final tonight.
”For those who thought I might not be pushing it hard in these Paralympics, there’s proof on the scoreboard that I am. I felt good,” Pistorius said.
“It’s a rush to be out there and running well.
“I might have to put a little extra salt in Arnu’s food to slow him down,” he joked ahead of last night’s final.
“He’s my teammate so it might be a little awkward in the room. We might not talk much,” smiled Pistorius.