x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Paralympics: Pistorius beats blade row rivals with record-breaking 4x100m relay run

South African runner Oscar Pistorius held off his Brazilian rival to bring home his 4x100m relay team in a new world record time and claim his first gold medal of the London 2012 Paralympics.

Arnu Fourie hands over to Oscar Pistorius in the final leg of their 4x100m relay at London 2012
Arnu Fourie hands over to Oscar Pistorius in the final leg of their 4x100m relay at London 2012

LONDON // Oscar Pistorius gained revenge for his shock 200 metres defeat by holding off his Brazilian conqueror on the final leg of the 4x100m relay to claim a belated first gold medal of London 2012.

The 25-year-old brought the South African team home in a new world record of 41.78 seconds to crown a night which saw the great blade debate take another twist.

Pistorius was pitted in direct opposition with Alan Fonteles Oliveira and American Blake Leeper, both of whose long blades he had fiercely criticised after his shock loss on Sunday.

But he held off the Brazilian strongly down the home straight to roars from the crowd.

Brazilian and American disappointment was compounded when both teams, who had come home second and third respectively, were disqualified.

Both disqualifications were down to changeover problems in the T42-46 event.

Despite tonight's triumph, Pistorius was also at pains to express remorse for launching a fierce attack on his rivals' blades in the aftermath of his 200m loss.

He said: "I just think it was distasteful to say it at the time. I've had some time to reflect, and I think everyone makes mistakes.

"I've obviously had to deal with the backlash of that. It was a bad time for me to bring up that topic. I was very frustrated.

"It came out at the wrong time, and I've apologised to Alan and my supporters. It's not like me. At the end of the day, I still broke the world record in the heats, and I've got to be gracious.

"One of the things I've learned - you can be humble when you win, it's easy. But to be gracious when you lose, that's not something I did and I'm very sorry for that."

Pistorius had earlier booked his place in the final of the 100m, along with the rest of the big guns for the Games' most eagerly-anticipated final, including British teenager Jonnie Peacock, who was fastest through.

The 19-year-old, who looked relaxed and confident in his blocks, defeated Oliveira as he clocked 11.08secs into a stiff head wind, equalling the T44 Paralympic record.

It was a baptism of fire for Peacock, who also lined up against American world champion Jerome Singleton.

Only the top two advanced along with two fastest losers, but the Cambridgeshire athlete is not the world record holder with a best of 10.85s for nothing.

Peacock, who trains under former Olympic 100m champion Donovan Bailey's old coach Dan Pfaff, said: "It was nuts out there when they called my name and my mates and family were by the start line and it relaxed me. I haven't been nervous at all.

"I'll have to go back now and look at the video, the end of the race wasn't as controlled as I'd like it to be.

"I need to keep my core stronger and my start could have been better, but that race into that kind of wind (a 1.6m/s head wind) could have been worth 10.90 or 10.95, which would have been my fastest ever first round. I'll come back stronger tomorrow.

"I expected a few of the guys to push me more to be honest, I didn't think I'd win by so much, so I'm happy."

Peacock, who lost his right leg below the knee to meningitis aged five, easily finished ahead of Singleton, who was second in 11.46.

Oliveira was third in 11.56, but made it through as a fastest loser.

Afterward Singleton appeared to back up Pistorius' claim that the athletes were not running on a level playing field, saying it was time to split the classes.

Despite being billed a T44 race (single leg below-the-knee amputees), the races also include T43 runners, who are double amputees, like Pistorius and Oliveira.

Singleton said: "I think the T43s and T44s need to split classes. It's not apples to apples, it's apples to pineapples right now.

"If you want to keep us together you need to re-evaluate that formula to make sure it's a fair playing field for all the athletes, because single leg amputees, we don't really have too much manoeuvring when it comes to height."

The blade length for single-leg amputees, like Singleton, is obviously dictated largely by the length of their other leg.

Singleton added: "I think we need to re-evaluate the formula so we can come together and have an idea of an exact height for an athlete to run in, maybe have a variation of about one centimetre so you know you're racing the same athlete in all competitions.

"I think that people need to find the best way to find out what the height should be. Time changes, science changes too, we have to make sure it's fair to a competitors."

Pistorius, who himself cannot switch to longer blades if he wants to carry on competing in non-disabled competition as they have to conform to stringent IAAF regulations, reckoned Oliveira's blades were about four inches longer than his.

But he appeared unaffected by the storm he has caused by winning his 100m heat in 11.18.

The South African finished 0.16 ahead of Leeper.

Despite Pistorius' apology for his outspoken comments, in which he publicly questioned International Paralympic Committee regulations, South Africa have made an official complaint to the IPC that athletes are switching the size of their running blades.

The governing body, though, said they have found no evidence to back their claims.

The letter from the chief executive of the South African national Paralympic committee asked the IPC to "urgently" investigate its allegation. It also asked to meet with members of the committee to discuss the existing rules.

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