Mon Aug 6, 2012, 01:01 PM
suffragette (8,480 posts)
"Oscar Pistorius and 'the Dignity of Risk' "
Great article in The Nation about Pistorius being the first double amputee to compete at the Olympics. Especially appreciate the focus on the "Dignity of Risk" since that is an element that has often been used to disallow people with disabilities from participating. (The risk aspect also has been used against women. See http://www.democraticunderground.com/discuss/duboard.php?az=view_all&address=389x7712962 )
Pistorius was born without fibulas and had both legs amputated below the knee before his first birthday. The 25-year-old used prosthetics from the time he could walk and was raised to see “putting them on” as no different than his older brother Carl putting on his shoes. He was a dominant Paralympic runner and qualified for the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Enter the IAAF, the world-governing body for track and field. They ruled, stunningly, that prosthetic legs constituted a “competitive advantage” for Pistorius. This is only logical to someone who thinks “The Six Million Dollar Man” was a documentary. Pistorius is not “bionic.” His world-class speed is in fact particularly remarkable given that his carbon fiber prosthetics requires him to start from a vertical position that always makes him the slowest off the blocks and most prone to be affected by wind resistance.
Eventually the Court of Arbitration for Sport overturned the IAAF’s decision. Upon hearing their ruling, Pistorius made clear that this was more than just his own fight, saying, "My focus throughout this appeal has been to ensure that disabled athletes be given the chance to compete and compete fairly with able-bodied athletes.”
"The Blade Runner" then further shocked the world by making last night’s semi-finals. Particularly remarkable is that even though the IAAF set a tone that the track and field community should be suspicious and resentful of Pistorius, the other athletes saw his accomplishment as something to celebrate. The winner of the semi-final race, Kirani James of Grenada, didn’t rejoice in his own victory in the immediate aftermath, but made a bee-line for Pistorius who came in last. They then in full view of the world, exchanged those paper-sized identification placards known as racing bibs, that are pinned to the front of their outfits. It was the ultimate show of camaraderie and respect.
“It is tremendously helpful for people with physical disability who struggle with the everyday things normal people take for granted. It gives them something to aspire to, to say ‘if he can do it I can’. But just as important is the perception of able bodied people. People think ‘oh they can’t do that physically disabled people need to be protected,' but sometimes they don’t. I think has made that acceptable. He has opened people to the dignity of risk, giving them that, rather than saying ‘they can’t do that’.”
More at link.
Here's a great picture of Pistorius inspiring a young runner:
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