Oscar’s Olympics hopes fading

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iol spt may June3 Pistorius Gallo Images Oscar Pistorius attempt to become the first double-amputee to run in the Olympics this summer in London is dwindling, and fast. File picture.

EUGENE, Oregon – Oscar Pistorius is trying to become the first double-amputee to run in the Olympics this summer in London. The chances are dwindling for the South African.

Pistorius ran the 400 meters at the Prefontaine Classic on Saturday in 46.86 seconds, well below the Olympic “A” standard of 45.30. He thinks he needs to reach that mark in an international meet before June 30 for the South African athletics federation to consider him for the Olympics.

Pistorius finished last in a strong field at the Diamond League event. American LaShawn Merritt won it in 44.91.

“I'm disappointed in myself a bit, it wasn't the race I wanted to have,” Pistorius said. “Unfortunately, it's one of those things. I would have liked to run faster.”

Known as the “Blade Runner” for his carbon-fiber prosthetic legs, Pistorius ran the “A” standard earlier this season, finishing in 45.20 in the South African capital of Pretoria in March. His best time was last July in Italy, when he ran the 400 in a personal-best 45.07.

He says he has two more chances to reach the standard, at the Diamond League's Adidas Grand Prix next weekend in New York, and the African Championships in June.

“I'm going to have to put my head down and seriously focus on those,” he said. “It's frustrating, really, because I know I'm in the shape to do it. It's ultimately one of those things, I've just got to get back into it.”

The Court of Arbitration for sport ruled in May 2008 that Pistorius' blades did not give him an unfair advantage, clearing the way for him to compete against able-bodies athletes. He was not able to qualify in time for the Beijing Olympics.

Last year, he claimed a silver medal at the world championships as a member of South Africa's 4x400-meter relay team. He was the first amputee to run in the event.

But the Olympics have long been his ultimate goal.

He said after Saturday's event at historic Hayward Field that he doesn't believe the pressure is getting to him.

“I've run under the same requirements in years before and I'm usually an athlete that performs better when I'm under pressure at big athletic meets,” he said. “The only explanation is that I didn't give my best today. There is no one to blame. We had great conditions, a phenomenal meet, one of the strongest fields we'll probably see this year, and unfortunately it didn't break in my favor.”

Merritt, the reigning Olympic champion, reignited the debate surrounding Pistorius when he pointed out earlier this year that the South African was improving every year and called on the IAAF to watch him to ensure his inclusion in able-bodied events was fair.

After Saturday's race, Merritt downplayed the comments.

“I wouldn't for a moment want to talk bad about a person in his position,” Merritt said. “He's a great athlete, very inspirational. And he's a friend of mine. I feel like what I said was taken out of context.”

Merritt went on to say: “It's not even an issue. He deserves to be here. He's fought to be here.”

Pistorius said he hasn't been told specifically that he cannot make the South African team without the “A” standard. He said recently that the “B” standard of 45.70 seconds may be enough because no one else from his country has met that mark this season.

However, he has been running under the impression that he needs the “A.”

“I've deducted that. Ultimately, those are the requirements,” he said. “And I'd like to meet the requirements that our federation has set up for us.” – Sapa-AP


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