I’m torn.

I read this just now:

London 2012 Olympics: Oscar Pistorius running for South Africa surely epitomises the spirit of the Games.

Now I’m torn between sincere admiration for this man’s indomitable spirit, determination and all-round ‘sod you I’m doing this,’ human resolve and the thought that his blades probably, despite the note in the article about fast-twitch muscle and the disadvantage of lacking an achilles tendon, provide a mechanical advantage over flesh-and-blood lower limbs.

No muscles in the lower legs means that the runner is less susceptible to both cramp and muscular injury – and runners in the sustained sprint of the 400 metres are apparently those most susceptible to injury. I think that I tend more towards the thought that the blades do actually confer an unfair advantage, as compared to other technological advances – better shoes, better materials for sports like the discus, javelin and pole vault that are available to all athletes. I’d be interested in the views of the charioteers on this one.

24 thoughts on “I’m torn.”

  1. Bravo, I agree with your inclination not to accept these artificial aids. Thin end of the wedge.

  2. This point was argued some time ago with much vigour on both sides. I was and still am, firmly in the unfair advantage camp.

  3. Have a heart.

    He’s not quick and certainly doubtful to make the semis never mind the finals and a medal. He’s managed to qualify under the Olympic minimum (just) so let’s allow the chap to follow his dream and compete. It’s not as though he’s stopping any others from competing.

    I’m not torn at all.

  4. That’s quite a story, Sipu.

    Soutie, so where do you draw the line? Suppose someone with amputations higher up the leg wishes to compete with, for example, powered prosthetics, what then? It’s not a case of having a heart – I already expressed my admiration for the guy, and it doesn’t matter where the guy comes in in the end, now, does it? It means that, (unless he comes last,) the ones who come in behind him may have been unfairly disadvantaged.

  5. Nor me. I am torn between hysterical laughter and sheer rage.

    “No muscles in the lower legs means that the runner is less susceptible to both cramp and muscular injury –”

    Like excuse me, no lower legs at all! What about ulceration, atrophy, pressure points and lack of circulation, all commonplace daily happenings to those who wear prosthetics? Believe you me, anyone who can even stand up in these springs deserves a medal. They have no suppressants in them, ie shock absorbers so there is more than undue amount of shock transmitted to the knee and hip. This poor lad is going to pay rather heavily for this later.

    A case of walking a mile in other people’s shoes if ever there is one!

  6. I would allow no prosthetics, not to preserve the egos of the able bodied competitors in case they lost, but to protect the bodies of the disabled who are probably too young to realise the ongoing damage they are about to do to themselves. You certainly cannot rely on coaches and team doctors.

    I have been there with this with the boy. The coach in Brum Uni pool continually tried to get the boy to trial for the paralympics, his times were well good enough. Fortunately I was in the UK at the time. They wanted him to move up North and train in Bradford I believe. He was in remission at the time but painfully obviously not going to stay that way, plus all his medical team was Brum based. There was no consideration at all for the fact that his life was so precariously balanced, they just saw someone with one leg who could swim faster than those with two! Even had the cheek to time him without his knowledge. He just happened to use the pool coincidentally with their training team session, he wasn’t part of their club. This fellow badgered the boy, damned good thing I was there to intervene. In fact, had he gone it would have been a disaster, he was in fact in hospice dying whilst the paralympics were on in 08.

    He actually commented that he was glad he hadn’t wasted his time with it all, several times. He always only swam for his own enjoyment and relaxation, used to refuse to compete unless he was raising money for charity. I feel the same way about gardening! So perhaps the refusal to compete is hereditary! We both always thought there was enough competition in real life!

  7. Christina

    I think your point about being too young to understand the ongoing damage brought about by over-training is valid for able-bodied competitors too.

    Sport is all very well – but the gruelling regime that athletes of all disciplines subject themselves to cannot be any good for anyone.

  8. Whilst I understand your points, Christina and Boadicea, in this instance, Pistorius, seems to know exactly what he is doing. His lower limbs were amputated when he was eleven months old and he has been competing in athletics since he was a schoolboy, and for the last for the last few years he has qualified and done well at a fairly high level.

    I think he should be allowed to compete. Apparently, according to articles I have read, his prosthetics do not give him an advantage, if anything they are a slight disadvantage.

    His tenacity, courage and dedication are to be applauded.

  9. This isn’t about child victims of ambitious parents/coaches or reward for effort among handicapped athletes. It’s about the potential improvement in performance among able-bodied competitors from artificial body-parts. It will be the start of a trend, I fear.

  10. It may be the start of a trend, but I doubt it, Janus. Regarding your last sentence, I think the Olympics these days are more do with corporate sponsorship and commercialisation. It’s big money if you win, or even take part, but somehow I don’t think Pistorius is in it for the money.

  11. Hi Ara, ‘I don’t think Pistorius is in it for the money’. From what I gather from those who have met him, young Oscar is a bit of a player. I would not be too sure about your generous observation. He has quite a team behind him. Sponsorship, money, ambition, politics exploitation are all there along with his undoubted talent, and hard work. Don’t forget, Oscar has been this way almost his entire life. It is what he knows. I salute his abilities as much as those of any able bodied athlete, but I would not put him on the same pedestal as Natalie du Toit.

  12. Arrers, I think it is doing a disservice to many people involved in sport to categorise tham all as in it for the money. It can be a career yes, but we don’t say the same about everyone who uses their talents to make a career, do we? We talk about doing their best and fulfilling their ambitions. Why not sports people too?

  13. Boadicea :

    Christina

    I think your point about being too young to understand the ongoing damage brought about by over-training is valid for able-bodied competitors too.

    Sport is all very well – but the gruelling regime that athletes of all disciplines subject themselves to cannot be any good for anyone.

    It is for orthopaedic surgeons, I suspect!

  14. Hi Janus and Sipu.

    I was being a bit harsh, to say they are in it for the money, but I was thinking about the time when it was only open to amateurs.

    Sipu.

    I don’t know much about him but you are right, I don’t think any athlete these days could achieve much without a “team” and backing.

  15. Boadicea.

    Your comment #9. Yes, I agree, and especially young children. I remember the horror stories about the gymnasts in the former Soviet Union.

    I had an elderly friend who died a couple of years ago who won a gold in the 1948 Olympics and he disliked the commercial aspect of the modern games. He reckoned he only trained three times a week, and sometimes less.

  16. Nope, I’ve decided, I’m agin’ it. You all know that my Grandson has a serious lactose allergy. It’s not fair, it’s a serious pain that he can’t eat pizza with his friends, or even go to Pizza Hut with them, but there it is. He copes – very well, in fact. It is the case that some of us are handicapped – and I use the word advisedly – compared to every one else. Pistorius got a raw deal and has coped with it superbly, but artificial enhancements, I believe, have no place in sport – the question remains, where do you draw the line, at Harrison Bergeron?

  17. I would give the guy a Gold medal just for turning up. The man is an inspiration especially to those who have lost limbs. People with any disability have a hard enough time of it anyway, but they play the cards they were dealt as they have no choice, what they have is what they live with. So lets hear no more of unfair advantage otherwise old German fighter pilots may start compalining that Douglas Bader had un unfair advantage in a dogfight because his tin legs could push harder on the rudder than their feeble flesh and blood ones.

  18. Well said, OMG.

    I doubt if this is the thin end of the wedge, I doubt may athletes would choose to amputate their lower limbs in order to gain a supposed advantage.

  19. Araminta :

    Well said, OMG.

    I doubt if this is the thin end of the wedge, I doubt may athletes would choose to amputate their lower limbs in order to gain a supposed advantage.

    Ara: I am not so sure. The way some of them dope themselves up with all sorts of nasties shows what lengths they are prepared to go to.

  20. Hmmm! An interesting debate. I too would applaud Pistorius’ campaign were it not for the existence of the Paralympics, an equally relevant and deserving competition.

    Still having all my limbs, extremities and faculties, I may apply to compete in the latter. Same difference, innit?

    OZ

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