Little Ellie & The Olympian: The Kindest Race Ever


–by The Huffington PostOriginal Story, Aug 10, 2012

He’s a world record holding sprinter from South Africa. She’s a spunky 5-year-old from Essex, England. In an inspiring series of images that have recently gone viral, the two strangers, united only by a stubborn refusal to let double amputations stop them, race each other in a friendly bionic foot race.

Oscar “Blade Runner” Pistorious, 25, was just 11 months old when doctors discovered he had no fibulas, requiring below-the-knee amputations of both his legs. Ellie May Challis lost both her hands and legs at 16 months, after contracting a severe case of meningitis.

Although Ellie was originally fitted with standard prosthetics, the toddler found them difficult to walk with. More sophisticated carbon fiber legs — the kind worn by Pistorious — were expensive, but Ellie’s community rallied behind her, raising the $15,000 needed for the replacements. In 2009, the 5-year-old became the youngest person ever to be fitted with carbon fiber prostheses.

Held at an indoor track in Enfield, North London, little Ellie actually bested the champion sprinter in all four of their 15-meter races, to the cheers of her twin sister Sophie, and older siblings Taila and Connor.

In a historic announcement, Pistorious, who runs using special Cheetah Flex Footlimbs, was granted permission to race in the London 2012 Olympic Games,reversing a ban by the Court of Arbitration for Sport. The International Association of Athletics had ruled Pistorious could not compete in the games because his Flex Foot limbs represented an unfair advantage. However, the Court reviewed evidence from two new (and conflicting) studies before making its ruling in favor of Pistorious.

Pistorious qualified for the semifinal heat of the 400 meter race on Sunday, but failed to qualify for the finals. His time, 46.54 seconds, was two seconds slower than the heat’s winner, reigning world champion Kirani James of Grenada. In a show of respect and sportsmanship, James embraced Pistorious after the race and asked to exchange bib numbers.

I just see him as another athlete, another competitor,” James told reporters the day before the semifinal. “What’s more important is I see him as another person. He’s someone I admire and respect.”

For his part, in an interview on the TODAY show, Pistorious said he willcherish his Olympic memories for “the rest of [his] life.” As his 89-year-old grandmother watched from the stands, Pistorious said, “Hearing the roar of the crowd and knowing that there were so many people behind me just made it that much more enjoyable.

Check out more adorable photos of Ellie and Oscar Pistorius below:

Double amputee, ‘Blade Runner’ creates Olympic history #disability


 

EDDIE PELLS

Last updated 22:57 04/08/2012
Oscar Pistorius
BLADE RUNNER: Oscar Pistorius (right) of South Africa shakes hands with Luguelin Santos of the Dominican Republic after finishing second in his 400m heat.

It began with a smile at the starting line.

Moments later, Oscar Pistorius took off and the click-click-clicking of carbon on the ground was all but drowned out by the 80,000 fans on hand to watch him make history today. The first amputee to compete in track at the Olympics, Pistorius cruised past an opponent or two in his 400-meter heat, and by the end, the “Blade Runner” was coasting in for a stress-free success.

Typical. Except this time, it was anything but that.

“I’ve worked for six years … to get my chance,” said the South African, who finished second and advanced to Monday morning’s (NZ time) semifinals. “I found myself smiling in the starting block.”

Yes, this sun-splashed day at Olympic Stadium was a good one for Pistorius, a double-amputee who runs on carbon-fiber blades and whose fight to get to this point has often felt more like a marathon than a sprint.

Finally racing where he always felt he belonged, he finished in a time of 45.44 seconds, crossing the line and looking up at the scoreboard, then covering his face with his hands when he saw the capital “Q” – for qualifier – go up by his name.

The 25-year-old runner was born without fibulas and his legs were amputated below the knee before he was a year old. His is one of those stories that is every bit as much about the journey – dramatic, inspiring and controversial – as the final result.

“I know Oscar was the protagonist in the race,” said Luguelin Santos of the Dominican Republic, who actually won the heat by .4 but went virtually unnoticed. “But I love him. He’s a good racer.”

Pistorius has four Paralympic gold medals to prove that, but this latest trip around the track is about something bigger than that.

He waged a long fight to run in the Olympics against able-bodied opponents.

After dozens of hearings in front of hundreds of men and women in suits charged with the task of deciding whether the blades gave Pistorius an unfair advantage – then getting his country’s Olympic committee to enter him into the games – Pistorius finally got his chance.

He shook hands with his opponents, crouched into the blocks, flashed that smile and then – in so many ways, it was just another race, with Pistorius among the fastest men in it.

“I just see him as another athlete, another competitor,” world champion Kirani James said.

Bursting out of the crouch from Lane 6, Pistorius got going slowly, but built up steam in the backstretch. He made up the lag and was easily among the top three when the runners turned into the backstretch. He passed Russia’s Maksim Dyldin and then, as all the top runners do in a 400 prelim, let off the gas over the final few meters to save energy for the next one.

 

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