By The Associated Press
JOHANNESBURG (AP) — Double-amputee runner Oscar Pistorius was chosen by South Africa’s athletics federation to join this month’s world championships.
Pistorius called the selection a culmination of his dream to compete at the highest level against able-bodied athletes. He will be the first amputee athlete at the worlds when he represents South Africa in Daegu, South Korea, as its only runner in the 400 meters. He was also chosen for the 4×400 relay.
The 24-year-old Pistorius was part of a group of 26 athletes picked by Athletics South Africa after he smashed his personal best last month at a meet in northern Italy. He made the qualifying time for the worlds and next year’s London Olympics.
“I have dreamt for such a long time of competing in a major championships and this is a very proud moment in my life,” Pistorius said in a statement. “It is an honor to be representing my country at such a prestigious event and I hope to do my best at the competition for South Africa.”
“If I manage to make it through the heats, I would be thrilled,” he added. “A good performance for me would be to be consistent through the heats. If I ran anywhere close to my PB (personal best), I would be delighted.”
Women’s 800-meter world champion Caster Semenya was also included and will defend the title she won in 2009 amid a storm of controversy over gender tests.
Eleven of South Africa’s athletes will be going to the world championships for the first time, including Pistorius, who had to take his case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport to be allowed to compete in able-bodied events on his carbon fiber blades.
The International Association of Athletics Federations had banned the multiple Paralympic gold medal winner from able-bodied competition, saying the blades gave him an unfair advantage.
Pistorius was cleared to compete in 2008, but failed to qualify for that year’s Beijing Olympics and the 2009 worlds in Berlin.
But, needing to run 45.25 seconds to make this year’s world championships, Pistorius clocked 45.07 last month in Lignano, Italy, his final race before the qualifying cutoff. He had never run faster than 45.61.
“The IAAF is a world-class governing body for our sport and I am grateful to have the chance to run in their events,” Pistorius said. “It will be a great day for me when I set out on the track in Daegu and I hope to do my country proud. This will be the highest-profile and most prestigious able-bodied event which I have ever competed in and I will face the highest-caliber of athletes from across the planet.”
New Athletics South Africa President James Evans said there was no concern on the part of the national federation over renewed criticism — after Pistorius ran his 45.07 — that the blades were unfair for other athletes.
“He has been cleared by CAS (Court of Arbitration for Sport),” Evans told The Associated Press, “and this has been dealt with by the courts already. The IAAF have accepted his entry (for the world championships) and there is no reason for us not to pick him.”
The world championships will take place Aug. 27-Sept. 4.
Semenya was cleared to run last year after an 11-month layoff because of the gender tests, but has had an erratic buildup to her title defense. She struggled with a back injury and then failed to come anywhere near the devastating pace she showed in winning the 800 as an 18-year-old two years ago.
“Hopefully she will reproduce that form,” Evans said. “She hasn’t had the greatest run-up to the world championships, but it is the world championships. We’ll do everything we can to help her.”
Men’s 800 world champion Mbulaeni Mulaudzi and 400-meter hurdler LJ van Zyl were also named to the team, as was Khotso Mokoena, the 2008 Olympic and 2009 world silver-medalist in the long jump.