LONDON – Oscar Pistorius failed in his bid to reach the Olympic 400 metres final on Sunday when the South African double-amputee finished last in his semi while it was a terrible night for the United States in an event they normally dominate.
Pistorius, who races wearing carbon fibre prosthetic blades after being born without a fibula in both legs, is the first double-amputee to run in the Games and was given a rapturous welcome when he went out on to the track.
The pace was too hot for him, though and, just as at last year’s world championships, he finished last in his race in 46.54 seconds, way down on the 45.44 season’s best he posted in the first round.
Immediately after finishing, heat winner and world champion Kirani James, the 19-year-old Grenadian, swapped his pinned-on name label with Pistorius, who will also run in the 4x400m relay, as the two men embraced.
“He’s an inspiration for all of us, it’s an honour competing against that guy” James told reporters. What he does takes a lot of courage. He’s a great individual and it’s time we see him like that and not anything else.”
Pistorius said of James’s gesture: “It was very kind of him. We share a similar life and it’s what the Olympics is all about.”
Luguelin Santos, the 18-year-old junior world champion from the Dominican Republic, made the final while the fastest qualifier was Trinidad & Tobago’s Lalonde Gordon.
For the first time in the Olympics, however, there will not be an American in the final.
The U.S. have won the last seven 400m golds, three times in that spell sweeping the medals.
Defending champion LaShawn Merritt pulled up injured in the first round and Bryshon Nellum and Tony McQuay failed to get through their semi-finals.