July 18, 2008

Pistorius fails to make Olympic team: After winning the right to compete against able-bodied runners, Pistorius failed to meet the qualifying time for the 400 meters in his final attempt, and two others were chosen as alternates.

posted by opel70 to other at 02:40 PM - 20 comments

He's got grit but he should stick to the Special Olympics. Remember...he's not disablee, he's just differntlyabled.

posted by budman13 at 05:42 PM on July 18, 2008

It's unfortunate for Pretorius, but really, this is the right outcome.

posted by salmacis at 05:55 PM on July 18, 2008

I still feel that it just isn't right for a guy with mechanical legs to compete against those without (didn't think "normal people" would be very pc of me).

posted by docshredder at 08:37 PM on July 18, 2008

He's got grit but he should stick to the Special Olympics. I think you mean Paralympics. At least I hope that's what you mean.

posted by goddam at 11:02 PM on July 18, 2008

That's just budman13 being "special". ;-)

posted by salmacis at 03:44 AM on July 19, 2008

Well, thank goodness this conversation is never going to come up again.

posted by chicobangs at 03:21 PM on July 19, 2008

Until 2012. Or maybe next years World Championships.

posted by apoch at 03:22 PM on July 19, 2008

I think you mean Paralympics. At least I hope that's what you mean. Thanks goddam for keeping me off my soap box. It's unfortunate for Pretorius, but really, this is the right outcome. So if Pretorius had a qualifing time, that would be the wrong outcome? I'll just slink back into my cave happily knowing, it's you and me and we just disagree.

posted by Folkways at 05:33 PM on July 19, 2008

Folkways beat me to the question I wanted to ask, Salmacis. So when he failed to qualify, that was the proper outcome because his blades were an unfair advantage? Interesting definition of advantage.

posted by rcade at 07:43 PM on July 19, 2008

At least I didn't say "gimp" olympics. And my momma always said that I was special.

posted by budman13 at 09:12 PM on July 19, 2008

Wheelchair athletes are faster than their ambulatory counterparts. Does that mean we should allow wheelchairs in the Olympics as well? There's no way of knowing whether Pretorius' blades give him an advantage or not, but he clearly isn't running in the same way as everyone else. It's got to be a level playing field or it makes a mockery of the sport.

posted by salmacis at 05:50 AM on July 20, 2008

Actually, salmacis, there apparently is a way to know if it gives him an advantage: I was pro-Pritorius until someone in the related Metafilter thread noted that his own doctors, trying to prove that he didn't have an advantage, unintentionally proved he has a monstrous advantage. As they imply in later graphs in that post, one way of looking at it is aerobically and anaerobically, he may be using the same energy running the 400M that a regular runner uses in the 200M; in other words, at worst he's getting a huge physiological advantage. And this is from data his own team and doctors supplied. I notice in the Youtube clip on the top of that Metafilter thread that in his 400M, he was lagging at the back of the pack until the last quarter of the race when he pushed forward to finish second. They round the last turn, and in the straightaway he's dead last; yet he suddenly- relative to the other sprinters- accelerates to second place, .17 seconds behind the leader. This is probably because he was physiologically only on his 150th meter of running while everyone else was on their 301st. It's still a gray area, but I guess here I can see that... well, even if it didn't confer an advantage, the rules of sprinting/running should be "no physical equipment outside of your own body". I say, make them run nude and barefoot. If Pritorius can win nude and bare, uh, stump, then he wins. It's a great story, a wonderful example of how technology astounds us every day and is improving lives and hope, and like the Paralympics itself is a nice inspiration to those who have lost limbs that they can still lead full lives. But now that I've re-watched that youtube clip with the science of oxygen and energy use on my mind, there's no way Pritorious should be competing with non-prosthetic runners. He's getting an ungodly advantage that suggests he's far exceeding what he would have done with two healthy legs. If not Oscar, someone else will come along and utterly demolish the world records in those things. Hell, I'd be interested to see how he runs the 800m, when the physiological advantage of using far less oxygen- and thus going into anaerobic burn later, where the clock ticks on how long and how fast we can pump our legs- might cause him to shatter a record.

posted by hincandenza at 02:38 PM on July 20, 2008

And by "gray area", I meant more along the lines of synthetic materials technologies, where a runner has an ACL injury or something, gets a synthetic material in there, and suddenly finds that after physical therapy and healing, he's running faster because his tendons are more/less stiff in the right ways. Eventually gene therapy will "correct" minor defects in runners, such as oxygen intake capacity, metabolism, leg/tendon length, etc, so that the elite can squeak out extra speed that no one else can approach with their "natural" body. And then we're square into "These are elite athletes, devoting themselves to this one thing" territory, where maybe the eventual Olympics will be a bunch of half-cyborg DNA-customized freaks running 8 second 100M dashes. There'll be some awkward fits and starts until we get there. But as it stands, prosthetics in the active portions of the body involved in an event should disqualify you to competing in that event. I think either the prosthetic will only allow for recovering some lost ability, in which case the person won't even qualify, or the prosthetic will enhance their natural ability such that they will far exceed their natural ability. The case where the prosthetic perfectly replaces their lost ability from a missing limb is so razor thin that it is effectively non-existent.

posted by hincandenza at 02:48 PM on July 20, 2008

Somewhere along this post, Pistorius' name got changed. Not to pick nits, but it's not Pretorious, Pretoria, or Pastorini. The name is Oscar Pistorius. And I imagine we'll reexamine this all over again soon, as I don't think he's going to walk away from all of his attempts to qualify internationally very soon. In the mean time I hope governing bodies don't give up the quest for the answer to the advantage or not question. It'd be pretty cool if they could prove there's none, he could qualify, and then pit his abilities against the world's best, even in a non-sanctioned event. Kind of like a friendly.

posted by tahoemoj at 03:54 PM on July 20, 2008

What's weird is I've been calling him by the right name- Pistorius- in previous comments here and at Metafilter, and then maybe in reading other comments somehow mentally transposed it to Pritorius. To answer your comment about "the quest for the answer to the advantage or not question", my comment above was that they already appear to have found a distinct advantage: for whatever mechanical reason, he uses far less energy to run the same distance at the same speed than people using calves and feet instead of his prosthetics. Which makes sense- we already know that runners with stiffer tendons have more return of energy on their step than those with stretched tendons. Those carbon fiber calves are even more efficient, and thus he seems to burn 25% less oxygen than other runners, which elongates how long he can run aerobically- runners can only sustain anaerobic running for a limited period of time, thus we can see the effects when in that last 50-80M the other runners appear to be slowing while Pistorius is cruising along at a higher speed. If it were the 450M sprint, he'd probably be 2 seconds ahead of the world record. I find myself in an odd space, because I'm obviously a vehement defender of PEDs, or at least opponent of the witch hunt, reefer madness irrationality when it comes to PEDs. And I think at the most elite level, I don't care if athletes want to do some PEDs to improve their bodies ability to function or heal. And at Metafilter, I originally suggested Pistorius should be free to run, and it's silly to keep him out... but now, I've decided I was wrong. Because the prosthetic can be swapped out and have an instant impact on performance, it seems to violate that gray area rule because other runners can't simply adopt his technique, training, or equipment. If all the sprinters could put a pair of these or these on, or even a prosthetic like Pistorius' that secures above the knee and bypasses the calf and foot altogether then sure- run the race that way. But you enter a state where it is as much running as are bicycling or bobsledding.

posted by hincandenza at 05:30 PM on July 20, 2008

Got a contender for the troll Olympics.

posted by yerfatma at 06:16 PM on July 20, 2008

What? What troll?

posted by hincandenza at 01:51 AM on July 21, 2008

Thanks Hal, I think you've cleared that one up pretty effectively. And it was me who, for some reason, started calling him "Pretorius". Mea culpa.

posted by salmacis at 03:06 AM on July 21, 2008

Was there a deleted post along the way? I didn't see any trolling going on on either my part or Hal's. Guess it's just best to let it go.

posted by tahoemoj at 02:15 PM on July 21, 2008

Man, I knew this dude in Florida named Jaco Pastorius that could flat out jam on the bass guitar. Played with a couple friends of mine in a group called Weather Report. I don't remember him running much, though. Don't think he's in any shape for the Olympics, at any rate. What with him having passed away 20 years ago.

posted by THX-1138 at 06:36 PM on July 22, 2008

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