Midway through the Paralympic Games (Sep. 2-4)

by Dr. Nancy Megginson

I wonder whether the United States has heard of the Oscar Pistorius Paralympic controversy/debate…since there is limited coverage of the Games, I imagine it is not widely known that Pistorius lost the 200m in the T43/44 to the 21 year-old Brazilian sprinter, Alan Oliveira, in the Sunday night competition.  Not only was that a shocker but Pistorius immediately cried foul to the International Paralympic Committee (IPC), saying the race was not fair and that Oliveira used longer ‘J’ blades (running prosthetics) than should be allowed which gave him a longer stride length.  This controversy started a huge media dialogue here relative to how an athlete with bilateral amputation is measured for these running blades and if Pistorius’s claim was warranted.  In an IPC media conference on Monday morning at Olympic Park, it was announced that there were rules that clearly defined a ‘formula’ to be used to estimate full body height of a T43 athlete so running prosthetics would not be developed/used to exceed this estimated height.  The IPC turned down Pistorius’s appeal yesterday stating that Oliveira’s blades where within the expectable range for his estimated height.  Pistorius issued an apology to Oliveira for the timing of the appeal and indicated he (Alan) was a great athlete but was frustrated with the IPC for not dealing with this issue earlier.  Apparently, Pistorius had contacted the IPC weeks ago about his concerns with the blade length of another competitor (believed to be the US T43 sprinter, Blake Leeper) and felt it was ignored.  The final results for the 200m medal event was Oliveira (Gold), Pistorius (Silver), and Leeper (Bronze).

I had mentioned in the previous ‘blog’ that it was questionable whether it was fair that T43 and T44 athletes compete against each other.  T43 sprinters are those with unilateral (one) amputation below the knee whereas T44 are athletes with bilateral (two) amputation below the knee.  Conventional wisdom would indicate that T44 sprinters would be at a disadvantage to an athlete missing one limb.  But it would appear that a symmetrical vs asymmetrical gait might just have a slight advantage—All three of the medal winners are T43 athletes.  In the Monday news conference, the IPC announced that it would be looking into whether the T43/44 class would be split into separate competition in the very near future…The 100m heats start on Wednesday with the finals on Thursday night…should be interesting.

I went to the equestrian individual freestyle competition on Tuesday…didn’t quite understand it but with some explanation from the venue staff, I sort of followed it.  The oneness of rider and horse was clearly impressive.

The US women wheelchair basketball won a strongly contested quarterfinal match against Canada tonight (Tuesday). The US men play tomorrow against Germany…it should be a tough match-up.  Wheelchair rugby starts on Wednesday with US playing Great Britain in the opening game.

China is leading the medal count with 131, followed by Great Britain (79), Russia (62), Ukraine (50), Australia (52), and then the US (47).  Don’t be confused by the numbers…the medal ranking is based on the number of gold, silver, and bronze for each country…

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