The first thing he noticed was the hushed voices. He couldn’t
make out the words or even the language. But the tone was casual,
unconcerned. Next was the smell; the unmistakeable smell of a hospital.
As the voices clarified from low murmurs to English words: anaesthetic,
recovery, pain, bold… Through the thick drowsiness he
started to perceive light. Then pain: weird, dull, aching pain in his
legs. His eyes flickered open in remembrance…..
“Oh my fucking God! What have I done?”
Somewhere at the back of his mind was a voice, reassuring him:
There’s no gain without pain! You will be known throughout
the world. You will have anything you want. Then there was the other
voice: Yes, anything you want … well, almost anything, apart
from two things.
Over the next weeks the medical team expressed themselves entirely
satisfied with the operation and the way his legs had healed. His
personal physio spent hours each day putting him through his paces. And
as he rested and recuperated, he watched the scenes from Rio. He
maintained his upper body strength in the gym, and, as he watched the
medal ceremonies, he pictured himself on the top step of the podium.
There would be no tears from him. His face would be strength,
determination … sacrifice. He would be to Tokyo what Mo
Farah or Usain Bolt had been to London 2012. The lasting image of
victory. Of being the best in the world.
The other athletes on the start line looked at him. They all knew the
race was not for who would win gold, but who would take silver after
him. Well, that was their problem, not his. His problem was what to do
with the money his agent kept telling him was rolling in –
from sponsors, advertising, from TV appearances, and from book and film
deals. His mind was so full he almost missed the start pistol.
He needn’t have worried. The race was just like the 10,000
metres. By half distance he was half a lap ahead. He eased up and
strolled in to beat his own world record. So the 5,000 metre gold would
sit alongside the one he’d won a week ago.
He didn’t bother with the lap of honour – last
weeks’ muted applause (there had even been a few boos) had
put him off that. Instead he went straight to the post-race interview
area. Smiling at the camera, he announced his retirement from athletics.
The TV studio in Mumbai was thankfully cooler than the cauldron of the
Olympic stadium. He’d been doing the rounds over the past
couple of weeks, talking about his two world records. Yes, they were
still in the record books, but he knew they’d be removed
after today’s joint IOC/IAAF meeting. The big debate would be
whether they would stand as Paralympic records. He didn’t
care – he still had two gold medals – and fame and
Even after paying for the operation to have his own legs re-attached,
he was a wealthy man. And he had his legs back. Even in 2012 any idiot
could see that Oscar Pistorius was only going to get faster and faster
as the technology of artificial limbs got better. Advanced materials
technology virtually made them into small machines. After all,
what’s a muscle? – just a bio-machine. Swap one
machine for another. And best of all, artificial limbs don’t
Author's note: I wrote this about a
month before London 2012. The link below is to an article
that appeared on the BBC website between the Olympics and
Ken Orford, 2012