Oscar Pistorius Seeks Redemption In Race To Be The World's Fastest Amputee : The Two-Way At the Paralympics, the South African double amputee faces his rivals in the 100-meter sprint.

Oscar Pistorius Seeks Redemption In Race To Be The World's Fastest Amputee

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This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.


And I'm Robert Siegel. One of the most compelling stories of the recent Olympics came from Oscar Pistorius, a South African runner with two prosthetic legs. Pistorius is also running in the ongoing Paralympics - the follow-up games for athletes with disabilities. During the recent 200-meter race, a London crowd watched stunned as a Brazilian runner edged Pistorius at the finish line. Here's the call on Paralympics TV.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Here goes Pistorius. Look at him go. Oscar Pistorius absolutely storming away. Oscar Pistorius, is he going to get, is he going? He's been caught, has he? Oscar Pistorius just tying up. Oh my goodness, he's been caught by Oliveira of Brazil. Well, that's absolutely extraordinary.

SIEGEL: Tomorrow, Oscar Pistorius gets a chance at redemption in the men's 100-meter sprint. The winner traditionally gets bragging rights to the title of world's fastest amputee. But NPR's Joseph Shapiro reports, Pistorius will again face some strong competition.

JOSEPH SHAPIRO, BYLINE: There's an American runner who'd like to introduce himself to you.

JEROME SINGLETON JR.: My name's Jerome Singleton, Jr. I'm the fastest amputee in the world.

SHAPIRO: Singleton can say that because after years of narrow losses to Oscar Pistorius, he defeated him at the world championship games last year. But, just barely. That race was so close, the judges had to spend several minutes studying pictures from the photo finish. Now meet another American runner, Blake Leeper. He'd never heard of the Paralympics until he saw a news story three years ago about Pistorius. Now, he and Pistorius share the world record for a double amputee in the 100 meters.

BLAKE LEEPER: It's such a quick race that it's to the point, anybody can win. That's why everybody likes the 100-meter race. It's hard to dominate 100 meters.

SHAPIRO: These guys have great names. Blake Leeper, the double amputee on two bouncy prosthetic legs. Jerome Singleton, the single amputee. Great Britain's got a top runner named Jonnie Peacock. And there's Alan Fonteles Cardoso Oliveira, the Brazilian who upset Pistorius on Sunday. All of them have a chance to win the 100-meter sprint tomorrow.

CHARLIE HUEBNER: It is just going to be phenomenal in terms of who's the favorite. And it's going to be one of the most fantastic races in sport history.

SHAPIRO: That's Charlie Huebner. He runs the Paralympics for the U.S. Olympic Committee. And you've got to forgive him if he's a little over-excited about the 100-meter race because this is a moment that shows the maturing of the Paralympics.

HUEBNER: Athletes are getting better, no different than the Olympic program. And you're just seeing some incredible athletes with better training, better coaching, that are getting better and running near Olympic times.

SHAPIRO: The winner tomorrow will run the 100 meters in a little under 11 seconds. At the Olympics, Usain Bolt of Jamaica was a little more than a second faster. It helps that U.S. Paralympians now train side-by-side with American Olympic athletes - at the same training centers, under the same Olympic coaches. Prosthetic racing legs are getting better, too. Pistorius, when he lost the other day, complained that his competitor's new leg blades were too long and gave him an unfair advantage.

Paralympic officials said the winner's blades were a regulation size, but that they'll take another look at the rules for these legs. In world competitions, double and single amputees run together. And that leads to another friendlier controversy over who's got the advantage: a runner with one prosthetic leg or the guy with two? For an answer, let American champion Jerome Singleton explain it. He's got degrees in applied physics and industrial engineering.

SINGLETON: With a double amputee, they can't generate the type of force we can out of the block. But when they get up tall and start running, they're blessed to be symmetrical, so they can run through and have a smoother gait and be in control a little bit better.

SHAPIRO: So that's a prediction: the single-leg amputees start faster out of the blocks. But watch out for the double amputees, who on two prosthetic legs are more balanced and finish faster. Joseph Shapiro, NPR News.

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