Sprinter With Two Carbon-Fiber Feet Gets Olympics Thumbs-Up

Illustration for article titled Sprinter With Two Carbon-Fiber Feet Gets Olympics Thumbs-Up

Oscar Pistorius is a sprinter with a difference: he runs on two artificial lower legs and feet fast enough that he may qualify for the Olympics. And that's something he can now attempt, given that the Court of Arbitration for Sport has just overturned his ban. The International Association of Athletics had ruled against him competing against able-bodied runners. All because of the specialized carbon-fiber Cheetah Flex-Foot prosthetic feet he uses, which represented an unfair mechanical advantage, maintained the IAAF. So the advanced artificial limbs, designed after the shape of a Cheetah's hind leg, were put to the test in the lab.

Illustration for article titled Sprinter With Two Carbon-Fiber Feet Gets Olympics Thumbs-Up

A new study led by MIT professor Hugh M. Herr revealed that the high-tech feet didn't give Oscar an advantage over able-bodied runners, conflicting with a January study at the German Sport University, which stated they were 30% more efficient than a human ankle. The German study also suggested that the springy feet meant that a user would need 25% less energy expenditure than an able-bodied runner to achieve the same sprinting speed: this is the study the IAAF based the ban on.

A panel at the Court of Arbitration looked at both studies and eventually ruled in favor of Oscar, overturning the IAAF's ban and opening the gates for him to try to qualify for the 400m.

Oscar was born without fibulas, and had the lower part of both legs amputated when he was 11 months old. He runs on the J-shaped Cheetah feet now, and does so remarkably well: his PB is 46.56 seconds, which is just shy of the 45.55 second qualifying time for Beijing. He plans to train hard, but may be invited to join the South African relay team even if he doesn't beat the individual race qualifying time. And that sounds much more in the spirit of good sportsmanship than banning the guy in the first place. [Flexfoot and Yahoo via Popsci] (Images courtesy of www.ossur.com)


History has shown these competition crazed athletes will do just about anything to get an edge on their opponents. If these legs do give him an advantage, (and if they don't future ones will) look for some of those people having their legs amputated so they can go for the gold (read advertising dollars).