LONDON (AP) — Oscar Pistorius took off and the click-click-clicking of carbon on the track was all but drowned out by the 80,000 fans who were on hand to watch him make Olympic history.
He picked up speed in the back straightaway, cruised past an opponent or two, and by the end, the "Blade Runner" was coasting in for a stress-free success.
Typical. Except this time, it was anything but that.
Finally racing where he always felt he belonged, the South African became the first amputee to compete on the track at an Olympics, finishing second in his 400-meter heat Saturday to easily advance to the next round.
Pistorius, a double-amputee who runs on carbon-fiber blades, circled the oval in 45.44 seconds — good enough for second place in his heat and a berth in the semifinals Sunday night.
The 25-year-old runner was born without fibulas and his legs were amputated below the knee before he was a year old. His is one of those stories that is every bit as much about the journey — dramatic, inspiring and controversial — as the final result.
"I know Oscar was the protagonist in the race," said Luguelin Santos of the Dominican Republic, who actually won the heat by .4 but went virtually unnoticed. "But I love him. He's a good racer."
Pistorius has four Paralympic gold medals to prove that, but this latest trip around the track is about something bigger than that.
He waged a long fight to run in the Olympics against able-bodied opponents.
After dozens of hearings in front of hundreds of men and women in suits charged with the task of deciding whether the blades gave Pistorius an unfair advantage — then getting his country's Olympic committee to enter him into the games — Pistorius finally got his chance.
He shook hands with his opponents, crouched into the blocks and then — in so many ways, it was just another race, with Pistorius among the fastest in it.
"I just see him as another athlete, another competitor," world champion Kirani James said.
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