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[Opinion] 100 meters in 11.17 Seconds on Artificial Legs

[Opinion] 100 meters in 11.17 Seconds on Artificial Legs

Posted September. 13, 2008 00:41,   


South Africa’s Oscar Pistorius, 22, won the men’s 100 meters at the Beijing Paralympics Tuesday in 11.17 seconds. His feat shows the prosthetic-legged sprinter is faster than most people with “bionic legs,” including pro soccer players. Pistorius’s times is only 1.48 seconds behind the world record of 100-meter Olympic champion Usain Bolt (9.69 seconds), and 0.39 seconds behind the time of women’s Olympic gold medalist Shelly-Ann Fraser (10.78).

Pistorius’s J-shaped artificial legs are made of carbon fiber. The state-of-art technology not only absorbs the impact of knees and hips, but is also elastic. Like those of soccer shoes, spikes are on the bottom of the artificial legs, which are manufactured by the Iceland-based Ossur and widely used by disabled athletes. Robert Gayley, a medical professor at the University of Miami, found that a prosthetic leg returns only about 80 percent of the energy absorbed in a stride, compared to as much as 240 percent for a normal leg. This shows how much of a disadvantage disabled athletes have.

Pistorius was born without a calf bone in both legs. The parts of his legs beneath the knees were cut off when he was 11 months old. Though he`s had to live with prosthetic legs, he has always excelled in many sports such as rugby and water polo. Asked if he envies people with normal legs after winning the race, he replied, “Your question is like a disabled person asking how it would be like to run in prosthetic legs. I’m just me.”

Pistorius competed against non-disabled athletes in the men’s 400 meters at the Beijing Olympics. Though he was eliminated in the preliminary round and can never challenge Bolt`s Olympic record, he could stand shoulder to shoulder with Bolt in the final round of the 2012 London Olympics, as Pistorius`s time has shown continuous improvement. The disabled sprinter`s story shows once again that a superman can emerge through an undeterred spirit and determination. Hope can always be found by those who do not give up.

Editorial Writer Huh Moon-myung (angelhuh@donga.com)