- Associated Press - Friday, August 10, 2012

LONDON — Oscar Pistorius set precedents all the way along his journey to and through the London Games. In the end, it was all about this: Running in an Olympic final.

A double-amputee now known globally as the “Blade Runner,” Pistorius anchored the South Africa team in the 4x400-meter relay final at the London Olympics on Friday night, bringing the roaring 80,000-strong crowd to its feet despite him crossing the finish line in eighth place.

He can proudly add “Olympic finalist” to his long list of trail-blazing achievements.

“This whole experience was amazing … to step out here in an Olympic final is more than I could have ever hoped for,” Pistorius said. “That opportunity to come here once again and finish today and not yesterday is a dream come true.”

Pistorius said the atmosphere, the crowd, the competition, the experience were all “far beyond my expectations.”

“If I took all the positive things I thought might come out of this and multiply it by 10, it still couldn’t come close.”

He almost didn’t make it, for so many reasons.

Born without fibulas, he had his legs amputated below the knee before he was a year old. He learned how to walk on prosthetics and even dabbled with playing rugby until a leg injury made him turn to athletics.

After winning his long struggle with track and field authorities for the right to compete in able-bodied events,Pistorius qualified for the 400-meter semifinals in his debut run at the Olympics last weekend. He finished last in his semifinal but that didn’t deter the first amputee runner to ever compete in track and field at the Olympics.

He had ambitions of winning an Olympic medal — and they weren’t far-fetched, considering he helped South Africa win a world championship silver medal last year at Daegu, South Korea, where he ran in the heats but missed the final.

In the relay heats on Thursday, his teammate Ofentse Mogawane tangled with a Kenyan runner and dropped the baton as he crashed to the track — a full length of the straight away from where he was supposed to hand it toPistorius.

The 25-year-old Pistorius then walked away from the changeover zone on his carbon fiber blades, believing his Olympics were over because South Africa did not finish the heat. But after a series of protests and appeals, the Kenyan team was disqualified from the heat and, in a very rare move, South Africa was added as the ninth team to the final — in the usually vacant inside lane.

South Africa was already trailing Friday when Pistorius took the baton to run the final lap, and he finished almost seven seconds behind the winning team from Bahamas. At least he wasn’t last — a Cuban runner was injured and didn’t finish the race.

And besides, with the thunderous applause and cheering following him around the track, it was like a victory lap for Pistorius.

“I think after yesterday, today can only be good,” he said, reflecting momentarily on the relay heats. “This week has just been one of the biggest blessings for me. It’s taught me a lot.

Story Continues →