Seven years ago I chose to have my leg amputated because I was confident that the technology in prosthetics could give me a much better shot at an active life than my deformed foot ever could. Now that I’ve entered the world of amputees, I’m seeing more and more people making the same decision. New ways to use metals and plastics creates constant upgrades to an amputee’s options.
I’m always interested in amputee runners, since I’ve never known how to run. I chose not to ‘learn’ after I got my artificial leg, because of complications with my sound foot. But there’s something about those amazing Cheetah legs that captures my attention (The curved spring loaded legs that serious amputee runners use are called Cheetah legs).
An amputee runner named Oscar Pistorius made international news recently by qualifying to run at the World Athletic Championships – against all able bodied runners. It’s the first time an amputee has run a professional race against competitors who have two sound legs.
In 2007 the International Association of Athletics Federations decided that it wasn’t fair to the able bodied runners to let Oscar compete with them, because he had an unfair advantage, since he runs on spring loaded feet. My feeling on that point is, if the other runners want that ‘advantage’ they’re welcome to cut off both of their legs and make things more fair.
Oscar’s gait is very different from that of an able bodied runner and he’s spent years perfecting his technique, to get where he is today. The technology and advancements in prosthetic legs can only take you so far. The rest comes down to persistence, dedication and hard work. Oscar put in the work, now he’s going to run the race.
I doubt the race will be televised, although I think they could attract a significant number of viewers. But I will be keeping an eye on the internet, checking up on my man Oscar. Even if he doesn’t win the race, the fact that he’s in it is a victory for all amputees.
I realize I’m a bit one sided when it comes to this debate, because I know firsthand what it takes to just walk correctly with a prosthetic leg, much less run in a race. And run it very fast. But I’m curious – do any of you able bodied runners out there feel like it’s not fair to let an amputee with Cheetah legs run against two legged competitors? I’d love to hear your perspectives and opinions.