Day 5 of Competitions - Live from London

3 September 2012 - Yesterday’s play ended so late at the Olympic Stadium, I didn’t have the energy to write. But there was a dramatic race that took place that evening, made even more dramatic after the competition, so I thought I’d recap.

The race was the men’s 200m (T44), featuring a star lineup: “Blade Runner” Oscar Pistorius of South Africa, the first amputee to run in the Olympics, just last month; three star athletes from America, MEDAL QUEST’s Blake Leeper, Jerome Singleton (who beat Pistorius in 2011) and Jim Bob Bizzel; plus racers from Germany, Switzerland and another South African.

Coming around the bend, Pistorius was ahead, racing hard – and then Brazil's Alan Fonteles Cardoso Oliveira ran a blistering finale to edge out a win by7/100ths of a second.

80,000 people in the Olympic Stadium were stunned, silent.

And then it got really interesting: in a television interview right after the race, Pistorius claimed he lost because his rivals had extended their carbon fiber prosthetic blades, giving them a longer stride. “We're not running in a fair race here,” he said. “The knee heights are four inches higher than they should be. “ He later said that he wasn’t accusing anyone, he was complaining that the International Paralympic Committee had failed to regulate blade lengths.

It’s been quite a flap: It did seem that Oliveira’s blades were taller, but did it make his stride longer? A newspaper here counted how many steps Oliveira took in the 200 meters and concluded that Oliveira took more than Pistorius, meaning his stride was actually shorter. And the irony is that Pistorius himself has been accused of lengthening his blades to run faster,something he’s disputed.

IPC medical & scientific director Dr Peter Van Der Vliet, interviewed earlier by MEDAL QUEST for our “Classifications” video, told the press that the formulas for acceptable blade lengths were set prior to the Games.

And in the fuss, maybe, another accomplishment isn’t being celebrated enough: Blake Leeper’s hard run and lunge at the end that earned him the bronze medal, only 3/100ths ahead of the next runner, in his first Games. Blake had told MEDAL QUEST how much he admired his teammate Jerome Singleton’s willingness to lunge and get scraped up to beat Pistorius in 2011 – and now the same strategy has paid off for him at the 2012 Games.

We’ll have more on Blake in a new video this week, so keep checking in with us on MEDAL QUEST.

Judith Vecchione, for MEDAL QUEST


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