Olympic athletes hope to win medals or even break records, but South African sprinter Oscar Pistorius will make history this weekend just by competing. Pistorius is the first double-amputee athlete to compete in the Olympic Games.
The 25-year-old South African athlete, dubbed the “Blade Runner,” had both legs amputated below the knee when he was young. His prosthetic legs have proved a source of controversy, as some have questioned whether his high-tech carbon-fiber blades give him an advantage.For many though, the athlete’s prosthetics are a source of inspiration.”It’s going to be very exciting to see him run,” said Alberto Esquenazi, Chief Medical Officer at MossRehab. He said the athlete’s presence at the Olympics is an amazing accomplishment. “One of the requirements to perform high-end athletics is you have to have the possibility of generating power – of generating energy – from the muscles in your legs,” Esquenazi said. “He didn’t have those muscles, and so he was provided with this carbon-graphite prostheses. They bend and then they spring back – pushing you forward.”
Esquenazi said high-level athletes like Pistorius can motivate patients with similar physical challenges, like one of his patients – a quadruple amputee who wants to go on a bicycle trip with her husband.
“She’s always been questioning herself: Is she going to be able to do this?” Esquenazi said. “And we had a discussion about the fact that if we have now a double amputee participating in the Olympic Games, we should be able to have her as a quadruple amputee go on her long across the country bicycle trip.”
Philadelphian Shawn Robinson lost both his legs to diabetes.”I watch a lot of sports and stuff,” Robinson said. “I seen him on SportsCenter and I noticed him running and whatever, and then I noticed him with the metal pieces and how fast he could run and stuff. I was already inspired myself.”Robinson will never be an Olympian, but he does use special prosthetics with springs so he can run and jump.