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Fri Sep 19 09:45:22 SAST 2014

Blades gave him fame and fortune

DAVID ISAACSON | 15 February, 2013 02:25

Oscar Pistorius, who has been training to make the 400m final at the 2016 Olympic Games, is one of the most recognisable athletes in the world.

His participation in London 2012 was one of the most widely covered events of the Games, even though he failed to get past the semifinals of the individual 400m race.

Only sprint king Usain Bolt and a handful of other international stars received as much attention as the South African, who has Bible verses tattooed on his back and arms.

He made history last year when he became the first amputee athlete to qualify for the Olympics in track and field, where he made the final of the 4x400m with his South African teammates.

Pistorius had won a medal at the able-bodied world championships in 2011 in the 4x400m relay, but in the individual race, he has never progressed beyond the semifinals at world-class international events.

"His goal is to make the Olympic final in Rio de Janeiro," said personal trainer Sebastiaan Rothmann, adding that the runner wanted to be among the final eight at next year's Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.

Pistorius first made his name at the 2004 Paralympics, as a 17-year-old, winning the 200m crown. At Beijing 2008, he claimed the sprint treble, the 100m, 200m and 400m.

That year he also won the court case that allowed him to compete against able-bodied runners.

While some believe he gets an advantage from the blades he uses, Kirani James of Grenada showed acceptance of Pistorius by swapping name tags with him after their semifinal at the London Olympics last year. James went on to win the Olympic title.

Pistorius's other great talent has been his ability to sell himself.

With a deal to train in the Italian town of Gemona during the European summer, he reportedly earns more than $2-million a year from sponsorship endorsements.

But he tarnished his image at the 2012 Paralympics when he lost the 200m title to Brazilian Alan Oliveira. He verbally attacked his rival in interviews straight after the race, complaining that the South American's longer blades gave him an unfair advantage.

Pistorius later apologised but remained adamant the issue he had raised was pertinent.

Critics pointed out that the argument he used against Oliveira was the same as the one that had been levelled against him competing in able-bodied track and field.

Now, a court will decide if his athletics career has run its course.

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Fri Sep 19 09:45:22 SAST 2014 ::