Johannesburg – Oscar Pistorius says he has trained hard to earn his place in South Africa's Olympic team for the London Games.
“I know that I deserve to be in London. I have twice set the qualification time and know I can be competitive,” Pistorius said ahead of the Games which start next week.
The double-amputee sprinter was initially included in the squad as a member of the 4x400 metres relay team, but the SA Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc) agreed to enter him in the individual event as well.
Pistorius is set to make history when he gets into the starting blocks in the Olympic Stadium on August 4 as the first amputee to participate in a track event at the able-bodied Games.
He said setbacks he had suffered along the way to realising his dream of competing with able-bodied athletes had only strengthened his resolve.
“I've always had the drive and ambition to go for what I believe in,” he said.
“I'm dedicated to my sport and I work so hard at being the best athlete I can possibly be.
“To be included in Team South Africa for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games is the culmination of years of hard work.
“Not just by me, but all the people around me, and I want to thank them and my fans for all their support.”
He faced an arduous journey in his quest to be included in the SA team after dealing with the disappointment of missing out on his chance four years ago.
Pistorius had little time to set the qualifying standard for the Beijing Games after the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) declared him eligible to compete against able-bodied athletes in May 2008.
Four years later, the disappointment was substituted with elation after he received the news of his inclusion while training in a gym in Gemona, Italy, on July 4.
“I was at the gym when my coach’s wife came running in and told me that my manager urgently needed to talk to me and I spoke to him on the phone,” Pistorius said.
“I virtually cried, I was just overwhelmed and relieved and then I received so much support from around the world. It was so humbling.”
With only two weeks left before he goes head-to-head with the world's best one-lap sprinters, Pistorius said he still had to pinch himself to make sure it was not a dream.
“The news still hasn't sunk in, and I'm not sure it will, even when I'm standing in the Olympic Stadium,” he said.
“I just need to remain focussed now, get my head down and use these last few weeks to prepare for what is going to be an awesome experience.”
The 25-year-old said he had worked hard on his fitness and conditioning and he was confident he would be in top form at the Games.
“I am training well and will hopefully be peaking at the right time, in London,” Pistorius said.
“I will push myself right up until I compete.”
His plan for the Games is simple – to take it one race at a time.
“I’m looking to race consistently and run well to try and progress through the rounds,” he said.
In his final race before the start of the global showpiece, he ran a pedestrian time of 46.56 seconds in Lignano, Italy, on Tuesday.
It was the same meeting where he set his personal best of 45.07a year ago.
His performances this season have been erratic. He set his only qualifying time in the 400m at a provincial meeting in Pretoria in March, clocking 45.20.
However, Pistorius was confident he would clock some quick times at the Games.
“I know I can run in the low 45s again and I have been training hard to lower my personal best,” he said.
“If it all comes together in London, I would love to make it through to at least the semi-finals and perhaps break the 45-second barrier.” – Sapa