I’m an Olympic junkie. Summer or winter, it doesn’t matter to me. I revel in the thrill of this global competition and find myself watching things intently that in other times would not draw even a glance. Trampolining. Badminton. Racewalking. Of course, there is the draw the household names, mainly professional athletes like NBA stars and tennis players. Or Michael Phelps who has made himself a household name in a sport , swimming, that really only has a huge following in Olympic years. Hard not to marvel at the accomplishments of these finely tuned athletes on this global stage.
But it is the stories of the other participants, those who most likely will never stand on the podium with medals around their necks, that makes these games so special. Stories of people who have overcome the greatest of adversities to stand equally alongside the household names. Simply being there and giving their all is a victory.
Today, Oscar Pistorius of South Africa continues the most unlikely of quests as he runs in the semi-finals of the Men’s 400M. Unlikely, because he is without both of his lower legs, born without fibulas in both legs. Running on carbon fiber blades, Pistorius has trained, raced and fought legal battles over a number of years to simply run in these Olympics. He doesn’t figure to medal or even make the finals. The legal battles stem from those say the blades give him an unfair advantage which sounds pretty humorous that anyone is accusing a man without legs as having any sort of advantage. I don’t want to focus on that aspect of this story however.
For me, this is a story about altering our perceptions of our limitations, both physical and mental. His journey should be a gold medal example for any of us who has ever sold ourselves short and taken the easier path because of limits imposed by ourselves or others. Watching him makes me wonder how many times I have limited myself, how many times I had listened to those who said that I couldn’t do this or that and gave up.
So, I will be watching today, marveling at a man who had the will to follow his dream, as well as wondering at a world of evolving medical technology that allows a legless man to go from a life in a wheelchair to being able to run with power and grace. In a world that sometimes seems ugly and hard, that is a huge change in perception. Makes me believe we might live in a time of miracles if we decide to look at it that way.
In a story in today’s Miami Herald, Linda Robertson writes about Pistorius’ mother and how her perceptions changed Oscar:
Pistorius’ late mother, Sheila, didn’t think Oscar would be able to walk, let alone run when he was born without fibulas. But after his legs were amputated at 11 months and he was fitted with prosthetics, she decided not to give him special treatment. Pistorius recalled Sheila, whom he described as “a bit hard-core and no-nonsense,” once telling him and his brother, “ ‘Carl, you put on your shoes and Oscar you put on your legs, and that’s the last I want to hear about it.’ I didn’t grow up thinking I had a disability. I grew up thinking I had different shoes.”
Put on your legs and run, Oscar.