Oscar Pistorius is no ordinary Olympian. Next month he will become the first double-amputee to take part in the Olympic Games, having reigned in the Paralympics since Athens in 2004.
The 25-year-old South African, who lost both legs from the knee down when he was 11 months old because he was born without fibulas, or calf bones, will take part in the Olympic 400-meter and 4×400-meter relay events, as well as defending his titles in the Paralympic 100, 200 and 400 meters.
Known as ?the blade runner,? because he competes using carbon fiber prosthetic legs, Pistorius spoke exclusively to Kathimerini about his ambitions in London, while also reminiscing on the Athens Paralympics.
What does being selected to compete in both the Olympics and the Paralympics in London mean to you?
It is a dream come true. I wouldn?t have been able to do it without the support of the people around me, my fans and my sponsors; they have driven me and kept me on the right track and I hope I can reward them by putting in a performance to be proud of.
Do you feel that the blades give you an advantage as some people say over other athletes, or would you say it?s the same as having real legs?
Some of the world?s leading scientists in this field have proven that I have no net advantage when competing against able-bodied athletes and I am looking forward to competing in both the Olympics and Paralympics.
Do you feel that the ancient Greek notion that, above all, ?it?s not the winning but the taking part that counts? applies to you in the Olympics, too?
When I compete, I compete to win. I think that is true of every participant, but you have to give it everything. I would rather lose a race but know I?ve put in 100 percent than win only having put in 95 percent.
What message does your Olympic participation send to the world?
I?m so privileged to have this opportunity. If my competing in the Olympics and Paralympics can inspire a generation to take up sport, I?ve gone some way to being fulfilled as an athlete.
What is your objective in next month?s Olympics? A place in the final, a medal perhaps? And how many Paralympic medals are you eyeing?
Just to compete in an Olympic Games is a massive thrill. I want to work well through the rounds, setting times close to my personal best. The semifinals are a realistic goal, but the final may be too much of a dream this time. I have big hopes for medals at the Paralympic Games in London. I will compete for South Africa and defend my 100 m, 200 m and 400 m titles, which won?t be easy. South Africa will also field a team for the 4×100 m relay for the first time and we will be challenging for gold.
How do your fellow athletes treat you in the dressing room, on the track and in general?
I have great respect for my other competitors and that respect is reciprocated; off the track we are friendly, but when it comes to competing you need to be focused they are your competitors. I have competed against them for the last five years and we are all very like-minded regarding our sport.
What are your memories from the Athens Paralympics in 2004?
It was my first Paralympic Games and I have great memories of stepping onto the track and hearing the crowd. It was amazing and will always be an experience that?s close to my heart. To come away with gold, having only taken up the sport seven months before, was a phenomenal feeling.
How far can the South African 4×400 team go in London?
We are world silver medalists and if we come together well, I believe we can make the final and be competitive for the medals.
As a ?dream runner? according to your autobiography what is your next dream after taking part in the Olympic Games?
If I remain on form, then Rio 2016 will be my next big milestone; I believe I will be at my peak by then.
What?s given you the strength to get this far in your career?
Belief in myself and my abilities. I?ve always been encouraged to go for what I believe in my mother instilled that in me from a young age. I also have the best people around me; they push me and make me be the best athlete I can.
What was it that made you try so many sports in your life to date?
I have always enjoyed sport, being active, being competitive. I really loved playing rugby union, but the track is where I belong.
Who are your idols?
I have a lot of influential people growing up my grandparents were ever so influential and supportive. In athletics, Colin Jackson, Frankie Fredericks and Michael Johnson have achieved great things and carried themselves in a very inspirational way. Outside of athletics I am a huge fan of Valentino Rossi and what he has achieved.