Monday, March 19, 2012

Blade Runner

Behold Oscar Pistorius, age 36, a South African Paralympic runner, who had both legs amputated below the knees as a child, and who runs on Cheetah Flex-Foot carbon fibre transtibial artificial limbs by Ossur.

"The Fastest Man on No Legs," they call him. 

Those carbon fiber blades give back more energy than regular legs and feet do, an advantage, but then again, you don't get the same push-off for a sprint start, and going around a curve is trickier than on feet you can feel, plus balance generally is an unnatural bitch on these things, so the theory is that it's a wash.

Guy is only two seconds behind the world-record holder in the 400 meters, which means he can outrun a whole lot of people once he gets moving.

There are a lot of divisions of Paralympic sports, with careful gradations of handicap: 

(From the Wiki:)

A letter F is for field athletes, T represents those who compete on the track, and the number shown refers to their disability.

11-13: track and field athletes who are visually impaired
20: track and field athletes who are intellectually disabled
31-38: track and field athletes with cerebral palsy
41-46: track and field amputees and les autres
T 51-56: wheelchair track athletes
F 51-58: wheelchair field athletes

Blind athletes compete in class 11 and are permitted to run with a sighted guide, while field athletes in the class are allowed the use of acoustic signals, for example electronic noises, clapping or voices, if they compete in the 100m, long jump or triple jump.

Athletes in classes 42, 43 and 44 must wear a prosthesis while competing, but this is optional for classes 45 and 46. 

 A guy with one leg amputated is in a different class than somebody with both; above the knee or below matters, too. There are six main divisions: Amputation; Cerebral Palsy; Wheelchair; Visually Impaired; Intellectual Disability; and Les Autres, literally, "The Others," which means everything else that might impair somebody significantly in an athletic competition.

When you see a man like this, it gets harder to justify sitting on a couch instead of working out because your ankle is sore.

What's the old saw? I was sad because I had no shoes, until I met a man who had no feet.

I expect with some of the returning veterans who were severely wounded during the war, we will see more jocks like this. And if it freaks you out to look at them? Consider how they got that way, and think about it when you choose who you vote for ...

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