Paralympic runner Pistorius is second in able-bodied 'B' race in Rome

Updated: July 13, 2007, 3:24 PM ET
Associated Press

ROME -- Paralympic runner Oscar Pistorius warmed up for his world-class, able-bodied race debut by finishing second in the 400 meters at the Golden Gala meet on Friday.

A double-amputee who races on carbon fiber blades attached below his knees, Pistorius charged from behind in the final straight to finish in 46.90 seconds, well off his personal best of 46.56.

Stefano Braciola of Italy won in 46.72 and Luca Galletti was third in 47.06.

On Sunday, the 20-year-old South African will run the 400 at the Norwich Union Grand Prix against a field that includes Olympic champion Jeremy Wariner.

Also entered are former Olympic relay gold medalist Darold Williamson of the United States, Commonwealth Games 400 champion John Steffensen of Australia and former 400 Olympic hurdles champion Angelo Taylor.

Wariner has the fastest 400 time this year of 44.02.

To make next year's Olympics in Beijing, Pistorius would have to run a 46.3 before the July 2008 qualifying deadline -- and get IAAF approval.

Before Friday's race, photographers clamored around Pistorius as he adjusted his starting blocks, wearing dark sunglasses and a yellow and black racing suit. When the stadium jumbo screen focused in on the rubber soles attached to the bottom of his sleek black blades, the crowd let out a series of oohs and aahs.

Starting on the outside in lane 8, Pistorius had the slowest reaction time out of the starting blocks and he waited until the finish to run his hardest, pumping his fist after he crossed the line to celebrate.

The IAAF used high-definition cameras to film his race against Italian club runners for study purposes.

Pistorius was born without fibulas -- the long, thin outer bone between the knee and ankle -- and was 11 months old when his legs were amputated below the knee.

He began running four years ago to treat a rugby injury, and nine months later won the 200 at the 2004 Paralympic Games in Athens.

He has gone on to set world records in the 100, 200 and 400 in Paralympic events, but he now wants a new challenge.

Pistorius was given permission to race in able-bodied races by the International Association of Athletics Federations last month. He still faces barriers to the Olympic level, amid claims the curved blades he runs on create an unfair advantage.

He's run in meets with able-bodied athletes in his native South Africa for the past three years. In March, he finished second in the 400 at the South African Championships.


Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

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