May 22, 2008
Disabled all through
Talkin’ sports
Robert Madoi

The tale of Oscar Pistorius - South Africa's double amputee athletics star - seems like one culled out of those numerous fairytale books.

A beater in the Paralympics fold, Pistorius (21) decided to raft on uncharted waters when his interest to engage a battle pitting the able-bodied against the disabled peaked this year.

The Paralympian's hopes of participating in this year's Olympics against able-bodied athletes seemed to have been thwarted when world athletics governing body wrongly opined that his prosthetic limbs gave him an "unfair advantage."

Pistorius, though, managed to overturn that proclamation when he won an appeal at the Court of Arbitration for Sport last week. The 21-year-old now has an Olympics lifeline. He needs to better his 400m's personal best time of 46.46 seconds by a little over a second or so to compete at the big time.

If he fails to achieve that lofty target, Pistorius will still be a hero to many - including yours truly who despite being able-bodied cannot, by any stretch of imagination, do 400m in 46.46.

Small wonder Pistorius's disability-defying feats won him a deserved berth on TIME Magazine's esteemed list of 2008's most influential personalities. Erik Weihenmayer - the first blind man to reach Mount Everest’s summit - hit the bull's eye when he penned a piece for TIME on Pistorius with a lavish hand. The South African youngster has showed that (cliché it may be) disability doesn't translate into inability.

Disability in the world of sport doesn't necessarily connote ‘not being able-bodied.’ The Ugandas of this world are pretty much disabled footballing sides when juxtaposed with the game's able-bodied elder statesmen like Brazil.
So, maybe watching Pistorius take on Jeremy Wariner will inject a dose of belief in their debilitating systems. But then again, with the Hungarian-German Csaba Laszlo at the helm, that may well be a gigantic wish.

He may be a 'disabled' tactician who has donned the predictable 4-4-2 straitjacket. And yes, he may - as he insists - have a bunch of 'disabled' local-based players, but the nadir the 44-year-old reached last Saturday was unprecedented.

The national football team - The Cranes - has infamously never overturned a result after losing in the first leg. Last weekend, they never threatened throwing that abject record in the wastebasket - not even after striker Geoffrey Serunkuma scrambled a goal home early on (his 14th in national colours).

One look at The Cranes' bench sent shivers down everyone's spine. Uganda was 2-0 down from the first leg, but Csaba still contrived to name - bar Robert Ssentongo - a defensive bench. It was Csaba at his best - removing the prosthetic limbs from a disabled Cranes outfit.

Looks like a leopard will never lose its spots after all. So much for Pistorius's bout of inspiration!