Johannesurg – It’s been a long journey from the east of Pretoria, which Oscar Pistorius calls home, to the east of London, where he will be the centre of attention of the sporting world next month. On Wednesday, the fastest man on no legs did not make light of the strain of what has been a five-year journey.
Banned in 2007 by the IAAF after the world body took a dislike to his prosthetics, Pistorius took the first steps on a trip that would wind through courts, see him pieced together in hospital and then romp around tracks, and end up with an invitation to take part on the ultimate stage.
Pistorius has fought and hurt almost every day it has taken to get to the point where the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc) finally announced his name as one of the last 13 to be included in Team South Africa for London 2012.
Lucky 13, indeed.
“It’s special, so special,” said Pistorius shortly before heading out to an afternoon training session on Wednesday. “When I found out, I was in the gym and Ansie (the wife of Ampie Louw, his coach) came in all excited to tell me that I’d been included in the team. All these emotions went through me – relief, joy, satisfaction, pride and gratitude.”
This year it was as though the pressure mounted on Pistorius. After the IAAF Diamond League in Ostrava in the Czech Republic, he and Lolo Jones, the United States hurdler, commiserated with each other after a bad meeting.
“We sulked together at dinner,” he said. “I had a really bad run and was well off the pace. I got a little better as each race went on, but the time to qualify was coming to an end, and eventually the last race was the African championships.”
Pistorius took silver in the 400m in 45.52sec, just 0.22sec off the qualifying time. It was agonisingly close.
The 4x400m team had not been in form, and the conditions in Benin were less than ideal. Most of the team had dodgy tummies from the food; the wind and dust made running hard, and yet Pistorius and the team came close.
That was enough for Athletics SA and Sascoc. They opted for a relay team that has a chance and has the pedigree. Pistorius will take part in both the 400m as an individual and the relay team. He will also take part in four events in the Paralympics.
If there was a surprise in the squad, it was the announcement of Hezekiel Sepeng as manager of the athletics squad.
“Finally, we have a complete squad! It’s taken four long years of work, but now we can concentrate on doing our best at the Games. The preparation has been done and now it’s up to our athletes to take over in London and show us what they’re made of,” said Gideon Sam, the president of Sascoc.
TEAM SOUTH AFRICA
Aquatic sports: Swimming: Men: Jean Basson, Charl Crous, Herman Heerden, Chad le Clos, Gideon Louw, Graham Moore, Sebastien Rousseau, Riaan Schoeman, Roland Schoeman, Leith Shankland, Darian Townsend, Cameron van der Burgh, Darren Murray, Trudi Maree. Women: Kathryn Meaklim, Karin Prinsloo, Wendy Trott, Suzaan van Biljon. Open water: Troyden Prinsloo, Jess Roux.
Archery: Karen Hultzer.
Athletics: Marathon: Men: Lusapho April, Stephen Mokoka, Coolboy Ngamole. Marathon: Women: René Kalmer, Tanith Maxwell, Irvette van Blerk. Track and field. Men: Anaso Jobodwana, André Olivier, Lehann Fourie, Cornel Fredericks, LJ van Zyl, Oscar Pistorius, Ofentse Mogawane, Willem de Beer, Shaun de Jager, Khotso Mokoena, Willem Coertzen. Women: Caster Semenya, Sunette Viljoen. 50km race walk: Marc Mundell.
Badminton: Michelle Claire Edwards, Dorian Lance James, Annari Viljoen, Willem Viljoen.
Boxing: Siphiwe Lusizi (69kg), Ayabonga Sonjica (56kg).
Canoeing: Bridgitte Hartley (K1 500m women), Tiffany Kruger (K1 200m women).
Cycling: Road: Darryl Impey, Robyn Lee de Groot, Ashleigh Moolman, Joanna van der Winkel. Mountain bike: Phillip Buys, Candice Neethling, Burry Stander. BMX: Sifiso Nhlapo. Track: Bernard Esterhuizen.
Equestrian: Paul Hart (eventing).
Soccer: Women: Roxanne Barker, Zamandosi Cele, Amanda Dlamini, Judith Hlumbane, Refiloe Jane, Kylie-Ann Louw, Noko Matlou, Andisiwe Mgcoyi, Philadelphia Mndaweni, Portia Modise, Sanah Mollo, Robyn Moodaly, Marry Ntsweng, Nompumelelo Nyandeni, Amanda Sister, Leandra Smeda, Janine van Wyk, Nothando Vilakazi.
Hockey: Men: Andrew Cronjé, Timothy Drummond, Ian Haley, Rhett Halkett, Marvin Harper, Julian Hykes, Lance Louw, Lloyd Madsen, Thornton McDade, Lloyd Norris-Jones, Taine Paton, Wade Paton, Rassie Pieterse, Justin Reid-Ross, Jonathan Robinson, Austin Smith. Women: Tarryn Bright, Dirkie Chamberlain, Pietie Coetzee, Bernadette Coston, Sulette Damons, Illse Davids, Lisa-Marie Deetlefs, Lesley-Ann George, Lenise Marais, Marsha Marescia, Mariette Rix, Shelley Russell, Kathleen Taylor, Nicolene Terblanche, Jennifer Wilson, Kate Woods.
Judo: Gideon van Zyl (73kg).
Rowing: Men’s lightweight coxless four: Matthew Brittain, Sizwe Ndlovu, John Smith, James Thompson. Women’s pairs: Lee-Ann Persse, Naydene Smith.
Sailing: Asenathi Jim (470 men), Roger Beresford Hudson (470 men).
Shooting: Alistair Davis (double trap men).
Triathlon: Richard Murray, Kate Roberts, Gillian Sanders.
Beach volleyball: Freedom Chiya, Grant Goldschmidt.
Weightlifting: Jean Greeff (94kg).