Saturday, May 24, 2008

Track & Field Really Needs Oscar Pistorius

You can’t take one more story about the doping scandals in track and field.

You’ve heard it all: the current Trevor Graham trial fingering some of the sport's biggest names in Marion Jones, Justin Gatlin, and Tim Montgomery. Or, the once great coach being charged for lying to federal officials about Balco. Or, Dwain Chambers battling with UK officials to run in the Olympics.

But try to sit still for just one more report. This one is an especially important piece. It explores the bigger picture of track and field which as a sport is embattled for its survival and its integrity because it has lost the public trust. A dark cloud hangs over the sport which blocks the public’s attention from arguably one of the most talented group of athletes at one time in this country’s history.

The sport is hurting. Track and field needs Oscar Pistorius and should welcome the sight of him, considering the sport's current gloomy state.

The sport’s federation did what it had to do when the organization ruled that Pistorious could not run in Beijing. The Blade Runner clearly gets a physical advantage from the carbon fiber legs when his competitors run on foot.

But Pistorius is not a threat to make the 400 in Beijing. The Olympic qualifying standard is 45.55, and his personal record stands at 46.55. Which means that he has to drop a second off his time in less than 60 days. In other words, his best chance is four years from now at the London Games.

He’s a hero. A pioneer with the drive to be the best, like every other champion. The pursuit to defy obstacles stacked sky high by the double amputee born without fibulas is inspiring.

In fact, the sport’s history is steeped in such inspirational figures—Jesse Owens defeating Hitler, Joan Benoit shattering glass ceilings, or Cathy Freeman representing the Aboriginal people of Australia. Pistorius may be remembered later for changing perception. Disability may now become ability.

Maybe the Court of Arbitration for Sports (CAS) has given the sport a gift in overturning the ban against Pistorious. Maybe, it’s an opportunity to right a wrong.

I am ecstatic,” Pistorius told reporters in Milan, Italy. “When I found out, I cried. It is a battle that has been going on for far too long. It’s a great day for the sport. I think this day is going to go down in history for the equality of disabled people.”

I hope South Africa decides to include him on the 4x400-meter relay, if it qualifies one. Track needs an inspirational figure to overshadow the depressing drug stories.

By Jay Hicks.

No comments:

Post a Comment