If you watched any of the Olympics at all yesterday, you probably at least saw a clip of the South African runner people are referring to as “Blade Runner.” His name is Oscar Pistorius, he is a double amputee who is running in this year’s the 400 meters, and he’s been called “The fastest thing on no legs.” It is the first time that any amputee has participated in Track & Field at the Olympics. His participation has created a bit of a controversy–People are claiming that his prothetic legs give him an unfair advantage…. An advantage over the other runners. Who have legs. Imagine running in a race against him and uttering those words: “No fair! Oscar doesn’t have…. legs.” The Olympic committee okayed him to take part this year after extensive tests showed his carbon legs didn’t give him an advantage, and in yesterday’s race, he took second place in his heat and qualified for the semi-finals.
There is something about the Olympics that I love so much. It’s such a welcome break from all the election crap that we have to endure at this time of year (though the political ads at every stinking break got very tiring). It’s a time where, for just a while, we can stop thinking about all the things that divide us, and we can focus on the things that unite us as a country: Freaking out over how high those dudes were bouncing on that trampoline, watching as the beach volleyball players’ butts are the focal-point of every camera, and keeping track of whether the US has more medals than China. Really though, I think the thing that gets me is thinking about all the preparation that goes into this one moment in time. Someone spends years and years preparing and working and training…. and then that person does two flips and a full twist and sticks the landing, they put their hands up, and they smile. I don’t really care what National Anthem they play at the medal ceremony (As long as it’s not the Chinese–Just kidding…. Sort of). There is this brotherhood and sisterhood about the Olympics–Watching two athletes who don’t even speak the same language hug each other over swim lane dividers after a race when they are both out of breath…. I love it.
So I have been thinking about this Oscar Pistorius guy all day. They talked about his story before the race–How he was born without a fibula in both his legs, and when he was eleven months old, both his legs were amputated below the knee. They told a story about when he was a kid, his mom (whose name is Sheila) would tell him and his older brother Carl to go outside and play. She’d say, “Carl, get your shoes on” and “Oscar, get your legs on.” When they would go outside to play, his mother would tell him, “If your brother climbs a tree, you climb it too.” These words have been ringing in my ears all day long…. I think this might be one of the coolest sentences I’ve ever heard: “If your brother climbs a tree, you climb it too.” There is such a power in those words, spoken from a mother to a son. And now this kid is running in the Olympics. With the best athletes on the planet. And he has no legs…. So stinking awesome.
Every year there is something from the Olympics that I take with me. It’s not who got which medal, or who set a world record, or even if the US beats China in medals (it’s tied 54-54 right now, by the way)–It’s always a story. Like Kerri Strug finishing that vault on one leg. Or like Derek Redmond, who hurt his leg and his dad ran along side of him, holding him up for the last 100 meters as he wept on his father’s shoulder. This year, the story I’m going to remember is not that some guy from South Africa ran in the 400 meters with prosthetic legs, or even his inspiring words: “You’re not disabled by the disabilities you have, you are able by the abilities you have.” This year, what I’m going to remember is that a mom (whose name I’ll forget) looked at her son, whose legs had been removed before his first birthday, and said, “If your brother climbs a tree, you climb it too.” And now that kid is an Olympian.
There is nothing I can’t do.