Johannesburg – Double amputee Oscar Pistorius thanked his supporters on social networking site Twitter after his historic qualifying sprint at the Olympic Games in London on Saturday.
“Thank you to everyone who has supported me, that was UNBELIEVABLE! Was so amazing to feel the energy from the crowd! Semi-final tomorrow! :),” he wrote.
Pistorius made history by becoming the first double amputee in a track event at the Games and also clocked 45.44, just 0.37 seconds off his personal best, to qualify automatically in the first of seven heats for Sunday night's semi-finals in London.
Luguelin dos Santos of the Dominican Republic won the race in 45.04, with the top three in each heat going through to the second round.
Earlier, the Pretoria boy was lauded on Twitter, his achievement listing as a trending topic on the global microblog.
Olympic swimmer Ryk Neethling tweeted straight after the race that Pistorius had to change his blades from the Cheetah Flex-Foot blades that he got clearance for after a long battle, to other prosthetics to go through the stairs of the mixed zone after his race.
Neethling wrote: “the obstacles this man has 2 overcome, now an Olympian”.
Straight after the race, Pistorius handled a flurry of media interviews while comments and congratulations ticked over on social media for him.
One Twitter user called him “most inspirational story of the Olympics”.
Another user wrote: “Who cares who wins gold. The Olympic spirit is about celebrating stories like that of Pistorius competing in track!”
The New York Times website pictured him racing towards the finish line, recapping his prolonged battle over whether his carbon-fiber prosthetic blades give him a competitive edge.
The writer noted that other disabled athletes have competed at the Olympics, including another South African, swimmer Natalie Du Toit, whose left leg was amputated above the knee.
The UK's Daily Telegraph called him the “History Maker” and the Mailonline called him “History Boy”.
Earlier, he told Associated Press: “I've worked for six years ... to get my chance.
“I found myself smiling in the starting block. Which is very rare in the 400 meters,” he was quoted as saying.
In a statement released before the Olympic Games, Pistorius said he felt confident that he would peak in time for the Olympics.
His website explains that he was born without the fibula, the long, slender bone running along the outside of the leg from below the knee joint and down to the ankle, in each of his legs.
His parents took medical advice and agreed to have his legs amputated below the knees at a young age and he started living with prosthetic legs.
Always keen on sport, it eventually became clear that he had track potential and spurred on by achievements at Paralympic Games, he began focusing on events for able-bodied athletes. – Sapa