By Alex Kay
PUBLISHED:16:18 EST, 31 July 2012 | UPDATED:16:20 EST, 31 July 2012
For the man who is about to become one of the most famous Olympians of all time, first a little peace and quiet.
Tucked away in a small town in north-eastern Italy, Oscar Pistorius is enjoying a rare stint out of the spotlight. He trains on a track built especially for him by the mayor of Gemona as he prepares to make history.
Just after 10.30am on Saturday, Pistorius will become the first disabled athlete to compete at the Olympics. The South African, who runs with blades instead of legs,* will compete in the heats of the* 400 metres.
Pistorius, who trains in the town from May to September, looks utterly relaxed here. It is two hours and a million miles from the focus that will be on him in London’s Olympic Stadium.
Purpose built: Oscar Pistorius trains on the Gemona athletics track
‘I came here in 2010 to receive an award at an event run by two universities in the area,’ he says.
‘The mayor wanted more of a sporting background to the town, so he offered me the chance to train here. I looked at the facilities and came up with some suggestions of what they needed to improve and now we have a beautiful track in one of the most beautiful settings there is. Kids come down to the track to watch. It’s an amazing, supportive culture. It’s so peaceful and tranquil and the facilities are world-class.’
For Gemona’s mayor, Paolo Urbani, it was a simple decision and one he feels is already paying off. ‘We wanted to have a sporting project in Gemona and Oscar was the perfect person to represent that,’ he says.
‘Oscar is like one of us. In 1976 we had a big earthquake which destroyed the town. The people were strong and wanted to rebuild and Oscar is like that too. He is a tough person. If he wants something, he puts the effort in to achieve it. The whole town will be watching his races.’
At full stretch: Pistorius prepares for training
How Pistorius follows in the footsteps of a cheetah
Oscar wears the Ossur Cheetah Flex-foot Artificial Sprinting Leg
Cost approx £1,300
Made of carbon fibre, manufactured in Iceland
Each blade weighs 512g (18.1oz)
The prosthesis’ ‘J’ curve shape resembles the hind quarter of a cheetah, the fastest animal on land
He only has one pair — he trains and competes in the same blades — and he’s been using the current pair since 2003
If they were to break, he’d be scuppered... but they won’t
Spikes are taken from an ordinary Nike shoe
Knee sockets are moulded specially around Oscar’s joints, with additional soft cushioning
It is cold and wet — a rare break from the blistering Italian summer* — when we are there to see* Pistorius but that does not alter the 25-year-old’s routine. Under the eye of his coach, Ampie Louw, Pistorius removes his prosthetic legs, puts on his blades, stretches and then starts his training.
He has the blades because he was born without fibulas, the bones that connect the knee and the ankle. They have caused their fair share of controversy, with some arguing that they give Pistorius an advantage over able-bodied athletes. But science has supported him and that is why he is preparing for the Games.
Pistorius, who at the Paralympics later this summer will defend three titles he won four years ago, cannot wait for his race. He adds, however: ‘I am definitely going to feel nervous. As soon as the gun goes, you are fine but the waiting kills athletes. You can be a nervous wreck but you just go through the motions of breathing deeply, stretching, making sure your number is on straight.
‘My first Olympic memory was watching Maurice Greene. He had crazy power and used to bounce across the track like a gummy bear.* I used to tell my friends he was the best. The 100m, 200m and 400m was pretty much all we knew about the Olympics as kids. It’s crazy to think that now I’m about to run.’
Source: Click Here
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