After months of speculation, South African Oscar Pistorius is officially part of South Africa’s track team headed to the London Olympics, taking place July 27 through August 12. Pistorius will run in both the individual 400 meters and the 4×400 relay, becoming the first amputee track athlete to compete in any of the games.
Despite being born with a congenital absence of the fibula in both legs, requiring double amputation below the knee at 11 months old, Pistorius never sat still. In fact, he only took up track as a form of rehabilitation from a rugby injury in 2003. Since then, his goal has been to compete in the both the Olympic and Paralympics Games.
The 25-year-old athlete competes using custom-built, J-shaped carbon fiber Cheetah Flex-Foot limbs manufactured by Icelandic company Össur. The limb weighs 18.1 ounces and is 16 3/8 inches long and according to the manufacturer’s website, the Flex-Foot is designed to have more layers of carbon at higher stress points, such as the apex of the “J” curve and less in areas where more flexibility is needed. The Flex-Foot has no heel component in order to accurately mimic the stance and swing phases of an able-bodied runner. The “J” curve itself is compressed at impact, storing energy and absorbing high levels of stress that would otherwise be absorbed by a runner’s ankle, knee, hip and lower back.
The South African Olympic committee and the National Track Federation suddenly cleared Pistorius despite his just missing out on the country’s qualifying criteria. Upon hearing the ruling, Pistorius was quoted saying, “Today is truly one of the proudest days of my life.”