I have been looking forward to this Friday for several months, and I know that the next few weeks my television will be tuned to non-stop sports. I will no doubt become invested in sporting events that I know little about and would turn off if it weren't for the platform of the competition. I simply love the Olympics!
This year is special because Oscar Pistorius is going to be
competing. Oscar is a bilateral below knee amputee who has earned his
slot on the Track and Field team for South Africa. His first race is
slotted to be run on August 4th at 10:35 (London time). I woke up to
watch Prince William marry Kate last year, so you can bet that I'll be
awake and watching when Oscar makes his run!
Many erroneously believe that Oscar Pistorius is the
first amputee to participate in the Olympic Games. A
swimmer by the name of Natalie Du Toit (incidentally
she was also representing South Africa) competed in the Beijing 2008
Olympics in Open Water swimming.
To be honest, I only know of Natalie's
accomplishment because I happened to be watching the Beijing Olympics
and I noticed she was sitting on the dock without legs. When I realized
that she was a competitor in the event, I became intrigued. She received
little press and even fewer accolades before the
competition. In fact, her participation only garnered a brief
explanation that she was permitted to sit at
the start because she does not wear legs when she swims.
Open Water swimming is not as sexy as Track and Field. The irony that a
man without his biological legs has become a world class runner certainly
adds to the appeal of "Oscar-mania," but I still wonder why Natalie's
accomplishments received so little attention. Although she didn't have
to disprove the unfair advantage accusation that has plagued Oscar, she
certainly encountered her share of hurdles simply to receive permission
to sit at the start of the race.
next few weeks we will all be bombarded with Olympic feel-good stories
of triumph, and Oscar will be among those that are recounted.
Most people, even those prominent within the amputee community, don't
realize that we had an amputee Olympian in 2008. (I have won more than
one cupcake making a wager with this tidbit of information!) While the
achievements of Oscar should by no means be minimized, Natalie deserves
some props as well for breaking down Olympic barriers.