Sunday, March 11, 2012

My Track Heroes: In Lanes 5 and 4...

The Track Heroes in lanes 5 and 4 are the epitome of the term “Hero”. Both have overcome, and continue to overcome, adversity and pursue their dream and put their all into everything for which they strive. Both have celebrated great success and suffered from great obstacles. In lane 5…

South African runner, Oscar Pistorius. “The fastest man on no legs” has made amazing strides in the sport of Track & Field. What amazed me when I first heard of Pistorius were the accomplishments and times he posts while running with two prosthetic legs. This man is a truly gifted and determined human-being. It is easy to say that any disabled athlete deserves the utmost respect, and Oscar Pistorius has gone above-and-beyond what many able-bodied runners could ever wish to accomplish. Pistorius suffered a double-leg amputation before his first birthday, having been born with congenital absence of the fibula in both legs. Regardless, Pistorius went on to compete in rugby, water polo, tennis, and wrestling as he grew up. After suffering a knee injury in 2003, he was introduced to running in rehab and the rest is history. Oscar is the world record holder in the 100m, 200m, and 400m in the T44 sporting class, which identifies T44 eligible athletes as, “Single leg below knee amputation. Combined lower plus upper limb amputations. Ambulant with moderately reduced function in one or both lower limbs.”

 The stats: Pistorius has world records in the T44 sporting class in the 100m, running 10.91 seconds in  2007 at the Nedbank Championships for the Physically Disabled, 200m, running 21.58 seconds at the same meet the next day, and a 47.49 second 400m at the 2008 Summer Paralympics in Beijing, but also a 45.07 second personal best at an able-bodied meet in Lignano, Italy, qualifying for the 2011 World Championships in Daegu and hitting the A Standard for the 2012 Olympic Games. In Daegu that same year, Pistorius qualified for the semi-final in the 400m with a time of 45.39s in the prelim round, but did not quite make it to the finals. He assisted the 4x400m relay squad in running a national record setting performance of 2 minutes, 59.21 seconds and making it to the finals, but was not selected for running in the final heat in which the South African relay team took a silver medal.

Pistorius runs using J-shaped prosthetics known as the “Cheetah Flex-Foot” made by Icelandic company Ossur. Oscar has battled much adversity and criticism in that he has been challenged that his prosthetics give him an advantage over able-bodied athletes who do not use equipment such as prosthetics, wheels, etc. Yet, Oscar Pistorius has overcome such obstacles and sets his sights on running for South Africa in the 2012 London Olympics and becoming one of the greatest sprinters of all times.

Much of what inspires me about Oscar Pistorius are not the accolades and records he has accumulated, but more so his drive, will, and determination to become one of the greatest track athletes of all time despite the fact that he had a double-leg amputation between his knees and ankles. Anyone can look up this accomplished track runner with no legs and be inspired to become something great themselves. Good luck to you and your future goals and aspirations, Mr. Pistorius.

In lane 4, U.S. hurdling inspiration and go-getter, Lori “Lolo” Jones. Lolo has been hurdling adversity and life obstacles since she was a young girl. Jones’ mother often held two jobs in order to support her family of six, while her father was either in the Air Force or prison for most of her young life. Lolo and her family once had to live in the basement of a church in Des Moines. When Jones’ family decided to make a move to Forest City, Iowa, Lolo did not want to go to a city where there was no track because she wanted to pursue her dream. In her time at Theodore Roosevelt High School in Des Moines, Lolo lived with four different families. Lolo Jones attended Louisiana State University where she received silver medals in the 100m hurdles and 4x100m relay in the NCAA Outdoor Championships in 2002, a gold medal in the 60m hurdles at the 2003 NCAA Indoor Championships, gold in the 4x100m relay at the 2003 NCAA Outdoor Championships, silver in the 60m hurdles and 60m dash at the 2004 NCAA Indoor Championships, gold in the 100m hurdles outdoor at the NCAA Mideast Region Championships, SEC Championships, and the Penn Relays, and gold in the 4x100m relay at the 2004 NCAA Outdoor Championships.

Lolo’s pro stats: Jones got sixth place in the 100m hurdles in 2007 at the World Outdoor championships in Osaka, Japan. In 2008, Lolo took first in the 60m hurdles at the World Indoor Championships in Valencia, Spain, seventh place in the 100m hurdles at the Olympics in Beijing, China, after stumbling on her second to last hurdle, and a second place in the World Athletics Final in the 100m hurdles in Stuttgart, Germany. In 2010, Jones defended her World Indoor Championship in the 60m hurdles.

Jones has recently recovered from surgery to repair her tethered spine. Before the surgery, Lolo could barely walk without feeling severe pain. Now, Jones is back and ready to compete. She won the 50m hurdles at the U.S. Open earlier this year and still has her sights set on the 2012 London Olympics. My money is on Lolo to get there and accomplish great things in the future. She is the epitome of an amazing athlete and an amazing person. A phoenix arisen from the ashes of her difficult childhood, and phoenix beginning her rise from the ashes of a risky spine surgery. Lolo Jones is an iconic figure to runners, hurdlers, men, and women all over the world. Also, she’s pretty easy on the eyes as well. I have no doubt we will all be seeing her on the Olympic track in London this summer. Get it Lolo.

Next week in “My Track Heroes” two more athletes will be revealed in lanes 3 and 2. Thanks for all the views and reads everyone! The “My Track Heroes” series will continue for the next three weeks with some older, well-known track & field athletes making their debuts on my heroes’ list and a relatively unknown, yet unforgettable high school athlete who made an impact on everyone around him. Join me next week on my blog, Runnin’ Down a Dream.

Also, shout out to all the USA Track & Field athletes at this weekend's IAAF World Indoor Championships! Do work Team USA! Congrats to those that have medaled thus far and to Ashton Eaton for his third time breaking the indoor heptathlon World Record! 

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