LONDON: South African Oscar Pistorius made Olympic history on Saturday while Jamaica’s Usain Bolt reached the 100m second round as he bids to seal his own place in Olympic legend.
Pistorius became the first double amputee to compete in an Olympic athletics event and had double joy as he qualified for the 400m semi-finals in front of his 89-year-old grandmother.
Bolt, who broke both the 100m and 200m world records in winning the Olympic titles four years ago, had not run since last month because of a back problem and there had been question marks over his fitness coming into the Games.
Pistorius, who had competed in the 2004 and 2008 Paralympics, finished second in his heat running on his carbon fibre blades and said he had realised a dream.
“It’s just an experience to be here. It’s a dream come true,” said Pistorius, who ran a season’s best of 45.44 seconds.
“I was so nervous this morning. I didn’t know whether to cry. I had a mixture of emotions.”
Pistorius said it was mainly thanks to his mother Sheila, who died when he was 15, that he had persisted with fulfilling his dream.
“She always said the loser isn’t the person that gets involved and comes last but it’s the person that doesn’t get involved in the first place.”
Bolt’s habit of making a bad start – something that cost him dearly at the world championships last year when he was disqualified for a false start in the 100m final – reared its head again in the heats.
He stumbled out of the blocks but then sauntered across the line in 10.09sec, nowhere near the 9.88sec of American Ryan Bailey, whose time was the fastest ever in an Olympic 100m heat.
“I’m feeling good, my legs are feeling good so I’m happy with that,” said 25-year-old Bolt.
“My training is good. I’m feeling back, so I’m happy.”
Elsewhere, defending Olympic champions suffered differing fortunes as Russian pole vault great Yelena Isinbayeva qualified with ease for the final.
However, 400m champion LaShawn Merritt bowed out after pulling up in his heat with a suspected hamstring injury.
“This was my life’s race,” said the dejected 26-year-old.
Ukraine’s heptathlon queen Natallia Dobrynska, who did well to even compete here after her husband and coach Dmitry Polyakov died of cancer in March, was already out of contention when she retired after a disastrous long jump.
Her crown looks all but set to be taken by British pin-up Jessica Ennis as she leads by a commanding margin going into Saturday evening’s final event, the 800 metres.
The home crowd may have even more cause to cheer as 10,000 metres world champion Mo Farah goes for gold, bidding to deprive Ethiopia’s increasingly injury-prone two-time Olympic champion Kenenisa Bekele of a third successive gold.
Channel News Asia