LONDON -- Oscar Pistorius, the double amputee from South Africa, qualified for the semifinals of the men's 400 meters this morning, finishing second in his heat with a season's best time of 45.44. Pistorius made history by becoming the first amputee to compete in the Paralympic and Olympic Games.
Pistorius, 25, runs on carbon fiber blades. The man called "Blade Runner" was born without fibula and, had double amputation at 11 months. He will compete in the 400m semifinals tomorrow.
I caught up with him in the "mixed zone" afterwards, along with about 75 other journalists. Pistorius arrived about 40 minutes after his race, because he had so many other interview responsibilities.
"It's such a whirlwind of the emotions," Pistorius said, "because you get out there and you want to take the occasion and be like, 'Wow, I'm actually here at the Olympics'. But at the same time, you want to take it so seriously, because you don't want to let yourself down. You don't want to walk away from the track thinking, 'Could I have represnted myself better today? Could I have represented my country better?''
"So all these things go through your mind," he said. "It's a mixture of trying to believe you have the self-confidence to do well. But your nature wants to make you doubt yourself a bit and think, Wow that guy looks really good in Lane 8, or this guy looked really good in warmup."
Evidently, he looked pretty good, too.
"I felt good," he said. "I heard some guy shout at me, 'Ah, you sexy beauty!' There are so many people here today just to enjoy the sport. That's what we must remember. We work so hard every day, we're so serious every day about what we do. It's moments like this that you have to just take a step back and said, 'Wow, I've been blessed by the lord and my family and friends have been so supportive."
"You actually reward yourself by doing well. That's why we're here, that's why we want to do well. Andit shouldn't be a burden. No one is making you run; you have to want to do it. It's just the most amazing experience."