Life in the Fast Lane: An Interview with Double-Amputee Athlete, Oscar Pistorius
The New York Times‘ Michael Sokolove interviewed South African athlete Oscar Pistorius, who is bound to make sporting history if he qualifies for the 2012 London Olympics this summer. Pistorius is a double-amputee who, despite having prosthetic legs, is one of the top-ranked 400-meter runners in the world.
Having travelled to South Africa to speak to the athlete, Sokolove says that Pistorius’ triumph over disability “raises all kinds of philosophical questions having to do with how we come into this world”. The New York Times piece is accompanied by photographs by renowned South African photographer, Pieter Hugo:
Oscar Pistorius trains inside a converted garage at the home of his personal trainer, a former professional rugby player. Iron pull-up bars and a variety of ropes and pulleys are bolted to brick walls. Free weights are lined up on the floor, along with hammered-together wooden boxes that serve as platforms for step-ups and standing jumps. Some of the equipment is clamped to an exterior wall of the garage, opposite an uncovered patio; when it rains, athletes just carry on and get soaked. “It’s old-school,” Pistorius said as we drove up to the place early one morning. “Some of the guys who train here, they bang it so hard, they often get sick in the garden. Nobody judges them.”
I visited with Pistorius last month in Pretoria, South Africa, where he was born 25 years ago without a fibula in either of his legs. (The fibula runs between the knee and ankle, beside the tibia.) His parents yielded to doctors’ recommendations that his lower legs should be amputated, and at 11 months, they were cut off just below the knee. At 13 months, he was fitted with prostheses. At 17 months, he was walking. Now he is among the top-ranked 400-meter runners in the world and a favorite to qualify for the 2012 London Olympics this summer. If he achieves this goal, he will be the first person without intact biological legs to compete in an Olympic running event. If he runs for South Africa in the 4-by-400-meter relay — and if Usain Bolt, the world-record holder in the 100- and 200-meter dashes does the same for Jamaica, as he hopes to — the finals of that event could be the marquee moment of the Summer Games.
Photos courtesy New York Times