6 September 2012 - Last night was the marquee event of these Paralympics, the much hyped Men’s 100m sprint (T44), or as most people think of it, “the Oscar Pistorius race.”
Actually Pistorius went into the race with a lot of stiff competition:
Alan Oliviera of Brazil, who’d beaten him in the 200m race just a few days before.
A trio of Americans: , whose best race this year was faster than anything Pistorius has run; Jerome Singleton, who beat Pistorius at the World Championships just last year; and Richard Browne, a tremendous talent who’s been a bit in the shadow of Singleton and Leeper.
Rounding out the field was the British hero Jonnie Peacock, who ran an astounding 10:85 this year to set a new world record; and Pistorius’ South African colleague Amu Fourie and China’s Zhiming Liu, both great runners as well.
In other words, it was a race that anyone could win. I imagine the bookies were tearing out their hair trying to figure this one out.
The athletes lined up and – let’s pause here – the striking thing about the lineup is that we were looking at both single and double amputees. The very complex classification system that MEDAL QUEST showed in an earlier groups them as “functionally equivalent” athletes, but it can be controversial. Oscar Pistorius about the rules, and other athletes have questions, too. My sense is that classification is a moving target, with authorities and athletes and coaches pushing one way and another, never likely to reach a final, once-and-for-all agreement.
So the athletes lined up and the cheers were amazing. As they took their marks, the huge numbers of British fans began a growing, screaming chant of “PEACOCK! PEACOCK!!!” that held up the start, which must begin in silence so everyone can hear the gun.
Then more tension: a false start.
But finally, they were off, and by the half – remember, that’s only 5 seconds! – Peacock was well ahead. The crowd went completely mad as he came in at a blistering pace, only .05 seconds under his world record, faster than anyone else on the field had ever run.
And close behind for the silver, the happiest person on the planet: Team USA’s Richard Browne. He took a wonderful victory lap with an American flag and the largest grin, talking with people, shaking hands, totally joyous all the way through the medals ceremony.
MEDAL QUEST’s photos are up on Facebook/medalquest now, and we’ll post our behind-the-scenes story on Sunday.
This was a race that truly lived up to the hype!
Judith Vecchione, for MEDAL QUEST