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Double amputee Pistorius to race at London

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JOHANNESBURG, South Africa, July 5 – Oscar Pistorius will become the first double amputee to compete at the Olympics after being included Wednesday in the South African 4×400-metre relay team for 2012 London Games, an official said.

The 25-year-old’s selection comes five days after conceding defeat in a battle to run in the 400m at the Games as he finished 0.22 of a second outside the qualifying mark of 45.30 seconds when coming second at the African championships in Benin.

Pistorius did clock 45.20 at a meet in Pretoria last March, but could not repeat the feat at an international meet, a requirement for selection in the South African team.

But his sadness turned to joy as South Africa finalised the squad for London by choosing a relay team including Pistorius, Willem de Beer, Ofentse Mogawane and Shaun de Jager.

South African Olympic chief Gideon Sam congratulated Pistorius, the rest of the relay team and nine other athletes added to the 112 named last month as the country seeks to improve on a dismal one-medal show at the 2008 Beijing Games.

“It has taken four years, but now we can concentrate on doing our best at the Games. The preparation has been done and now it is up to our athletes to take over in London and show us what they are made of.

“As I have said many times before, we are not taking passengers to London. Everyone has met selection criteria and are genuine Olympic Games material. I wish them all the best.”

Called the ‘Blade Runner’ and ‘The Fastest Man on no legs’, Pistorius was part of the South African 4x400m relay squad that came second at the 2011 world championships in South Korea although he did not run in the final.

There had been fears that South Africa would not send a relay team as no athlete qualified for the 400m and the world championship silver medal-winning team has been hit by poor form and injuries.

Pistorius runs with carbon-fibre artificial ‘blades’ and was cleared to compete at top level in 2008 when the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) overturned an IAAF ruling that his blades gave him an unfair advantage.

The South African had both legs amputated below the knee before turning one-year-old because of a congenital condition that meant he was born without lower leg bones.

Having failed to qualify for the 400m at the 2008 Beijing Olympics he went on to compete at the 2011 world championships in South Korea, where he made the 400m semi-final and won a silver in the 4x400m relay.

However, his omission from the relay team for the final left him venting his anger at South African officials.

Pistorius, a three-event defending champion, will also compete at the Paralympic Games in London in the 100m, 200m, 400m and 4x100m relay.

“I am extremely excited about the Paralympic Games in London and a big focus for me will be defending my three titles as well as being part of the South African team competing for a world record in the 4x100m relay at the Paralympics,” he said.

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