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Oscar's Legacy
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Ken Orford



July 2016

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.

August 2016

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.

August 2020

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.

August 2024

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 wealth.

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 get tired.


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 Paralympics. Ken

© Ken Orford, 2012

©, 2010