Oscar Pistorius fails to qualify
PORTO NOVO, Benin -- Oscar Pistorius' four-year quest to run in the 400 meters at the London Olympics came down to less than a quarter-second at the end.
That's how close the "Blade Runner" was to carving out his place in history.
The South African double-amputee missed out on qualifying in his individual event by an agonizing 0.22 seconds on Friday in his last chance ahead of next month's games.
Silver at the African Championships and a first major individual medal in an able-bodied race was only small consolation for the world's most famous disabled athlete, who has defied doubts over his ability throughout his career and came a little more than two-tenths of a second from reaching the pinnacle of his sport in his final qualifying race.
He still should be picked for South Africa's 1,600 relay team, but the dream of testing himself against the world's best runners over one lap in Olympic Stadium is gone for Pistorius -- for now.
Rio de Janeiro in 2016 will likely be the 25-year-old's very last opportunity to run the 400 at the Olympics on his carbon fiber blades and realize a dream he's had since a rugby injury forced him to take up athletics as a teenager less than 10 years ago.
"Was a rough week and I'm blessed," Pistorius tweeted from Benin, disappointed after missing out but still hoping to have the chance to be the first amputee track athlete at the Olympics when South Africa's relay team is named, probably next week.
The team will be picked on form, Athletics South Africa said, and Pistorius is his country's best-performing 400 runner this year after posting an early-season Olympic qualifying time in South Africa in March.
Even though he couldn't hit the second qualifier he needed at an international meet before Saturday to be eligible in the 400 according to his national federation's strict qualifying criteria, London could still be calling.
"I had a great early start to the season, setting the Olympic qualification time and I am hoping that there is still the opportunity for me to be selected to run for South Africa in the 4x400m relay," Pistorius said.
Needing to post 45.30 seconds or better once more, Pistorius crossed in 45.52 in Friday's final. It wasn't enough, even if the feel of a medal around his neck tempered the disappointment.
"My race today felt good and I'm pleased to have won the silver medal at the African Championships," he said. "I am obviously disappointed that my time was just outside of the Olympic qualification time by two tenths of a second, I had felt very strong coming into this competition ... I was in good shape to set the time."
Since 2008, when he was cleared by sport's highest court to run against able-bodied competitors on his hi-tech blades, Pistorius had targeted a place in the Olympic 400 final as the ultimate confirmation of his talent and reward for his dedication.
Last year, he ran a personal-best 45.07 in a small meet in northern Italy to qualify for the world championships -- where he won a silver medal in the 1,600 relay -- and raise hopes that a place at the Olympics was within reach.
The dream was even closer when he began this season with 45.20 in his home city of Pretoria for his first qualifying time of the Olympic year.
It incredibly left Pistorius, who was born with a congenital defect and had both of his lower legs amputated when he was 11 months old, one good run away from the Olympics. He would likely have been one of the biggest draws in the British capital alongside Usain Bolt and Michael Phelps.
He still could be.
But for the rest of the season and right up to Saturday's cutoff date, Pistorius struggled to repeat that form and seal an individual place in London, traveling from his home to Europe, the United States and back to Africa in search of the elusive second qualifying time.
It didn't come, even if he pushed desperately to the line in the tiny West African country of Benin to cross just behind Botswana's Isaac Makwala, who won gold in 45.25.
"I'm very happy to be African, I'm very happy to be out here to represent my country, being here is a blessing and I couldn't have asked for a better race," Pistorius said. "Isaac and I raced in every race when we got here. He's shown that he really deserves to be African champion so well done to him."
Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press
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