Oscar Pistorius: “The Fastest Man on No Legs”

“I cried because I had no shoes until I met a man who had no feet.”

An Old Persian Proverb

At 10:35 a.m. on a cloudy London Saturday morning, a South African with two prosthetic carbon legs took his place in Lane 6 and history. Every other competitor in the 400 meters had two feet. Pistorius had none.

Pistorius, 25, was born without fibulas — one of the bones that run from the knee to the ankle — leading to a double amputation when he was 11 months old. His mother worked hard to make sure he was not treated any differently. When she told his brother to put on his shoes, she told him to put on his legs.

“I grew up not really thinking I had a disability,” Pistorius said. “I grew up thinking I had different shoes. It was just kind of a very normal kind of life for me. I just played sports — I was never really an academic from a young age, so sport was the one thing I loved.”

South Africa’s Oscar Pistorius became the first double amputee to compete on the track at an Olympic Games on Saturday. He raced to huge cheers and looked comfortable throughout as he qualified for the semi-finals with a time of 45.44 seconds.

If the Olympics are about showing the world what a human being is capable of, then Pistorius completed that task. He showed to the world that our very weaknesses can be transformed into our strengths and that hard work and tenacity are always rewarded with triumph. And that victory is not about the “muscles” of your body, it is about the “muscles” of your spirit: resilient, unyielding in front of defeat, never ever surrendering because of any flaws you are aware of.

If we gain a glimpse into history, we will find many ‘Oscars’ that persevered and succeded despite very serious obstacles they faced. The Spanish painter Francisco Goya suffered an illness which left him deaf at 46. He went on to create some of the best known Spanish art of the 19th Century. Albert Einstein, the famous mathematician and physicist found maths and writing difficult at school but went on to become one of the best known scientists of all time winning the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1921. English poet John Milton became blind at age 43. He went on to create his most famous epic, Paradise Lost. When he was almost totally deaf, Ludwig van Beethoven composed his greatest works. These include the last five piano sonatas, the Ninth Symphony, and the last five string quartets.

The list is endless. The list of those who persevered and never gave up on their dreams. Their examples are there to inspire us to want to be the next names on the list, despite our failures, despite our seeming weaknesses, despite the crowd’s “You can never achieve that”. All we have to do is to DREAM, to DESIRE  and to DARE, just like Oscar did…

Five months before Oscar’s amputation,

his mom wrote a letter for him to read as an adult.

“The real loser is never the person who crosses the finishing line last,”

she wrote. “The real loser is the person who sits on the side,

the person who does not even try to compete.”

DREAM, DESIRE and DARE! – 3 Ds to remember…

Gaya Sargsyan